We have a second Moon! The Mini Moon or perhaps, the Little Luna! Yes, Earth has a second Moon and it has been our companion for at least 100 years. We didn’t even know about it until a few months ago. But why couldn’t we spot it? That’s because it is tiny – really tiny! This Little Luna is just 40 meter across. Well, that explains a lot!
About Discovery of Mini Moon – 2016 HO3
Yes, that weird looking alpha-numeric number is the name of our Little Luna. Once again, the name is: 2016 HO3. It is an asteroid and has been our Earth’s companion for a 100 years minimum. It was spotted by Pan-STARRS 1. Again, this second weird name is of a telescope designed specifically for surveying asteroids. Pan-STARRS 1 is located in Hawaii’s Haleakala.
2016 HO3 was spotted this year, i.e. in 2016. The exact date was April 27. This discovery was announced by NASA’s Paul Chodas of NEO Studies at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Now, what the hell is NEO? NEO stands for Near-Earth Objects.
It was announced that since our Mini Moon (it wasn’t actually called Mini Moon) i.e. 2016 HO3 keeps looping around our planet as we keep traveling through space and travel around our sun, it safe to call 2016 HO3 as Earth’s quasi-satellite.
Yes, they called the 2016 HO3 as quasi-satellite and not Mini Moon or Little Luna. So, where are these two names coming from? As it turns out, we have been touched by the god of creativity…
About the Orbit of Mini Moon
Scientists are saying that 2016 HO3 has a diameter anywhere between 120 feet to 300 feet. In terms of meters it is 31 meters to 91 meters. That is pretty small but big enough to trigger a catastrophic event if it happens to stop looping around our planet and decides to rather slam on it. Well, that’s not happening anytime soon as it didn’t happen in last 100 years.
Now, after studying the Little Luna, scientists have figured out that it is farther out from our Moon. It maintains a distance of a minimum of 14 million kilometers or 9 million miles from us. The distance between Mini Moon and Earth is about 38 to 100 times the distance between Earth and Moon.
How Long Will Mini Moon Stay?
Chodas from NASA said that 2016 HO3 is in a ‘Little Dance with Earth’. It moves far out enough to easily escape gravitational tug of Earth but never gets close enough to slam on her. This means, Little Luna is not a threat for us.
Chodas actually tells more. He is saying that there used to be another asteroid with similar orbital pattern as 2016 HO3. That asteroid was known as 2003 YN107 and some ten years ago, it gave our Earth some companionship before leaving forever. 2016 HO3 on the other hand seems to have no such intentions. It is about to stay for a while, perhaps centuries to come. Chodas says that the calculations done by scientists reveal that the Little Luna has been out there for nearly a century.
Is Mini Moon Alone?
There is a saying, if you have spotted an asteroid around, expect to have more asteroids around. University of Helsinki researchers calculated in 2012 that at any given point in time at least one asteroid of 1-meter diameter will be orbiting our Earth.
Here is a quick chart that shows their calculation:
If the above chart is correct then out quasi-satellite 2016 HO3 is the second type in the table and is very much capable of causing a Tunguska-like event if it suddenly decides to slam on Earth. Hopefully it doesn’t have a brain of its own and instead of slamming on Earth, it decides to go off course and escape Earth’s gravity.