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Earth's adorable asteroid companion will circle us 'for centuries to come'

Earth's adorable asteroid companion will circle us 'for centuries to come'


Meet 2016 HO3

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For more than 100 years now, Earth has enjoyed the company of a faithful asteroid follower, NASA revealed this week — and its name is 2016 HO3.

The asteroid, which was discovered in April, orbits around the Sun — and circles Earth in the process. That means that unlike the Moon, it isn’t a true satellite, Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. It's located too far away from Earth to fall into that category, so NASA is calling it a "quasi-satellite" instead. Still, it hangs around us quite loyally. It "loops around our planet, but never ventures very far away as we both go around the Sun," Chodas said. "It will continue to follow this pattern as Earth's companion for centuries to come."

The asteroid was discovered using the Pan-STARRS 1 asteroid survey telescope, which is located in Haleakala, Hawaii, reports The Washington Post. Scientists aren’t sure how big it is, but they think it might have a diameter of between 120 and 300 feet. They also estimate that its orbit never puts it more than 100 times the distance between Earth and the Moon. The closest it ever gets to Earth is 38 times that distance — or 9 million miles. That means that 2016 HO3 definitely doesn’t pose a threat to humans. But just to be sure, I asked The Verge’s resident space expert, Loren Grush, what she thinks of it. "It’s adorable," she said.