What was believed to be just space junk has this year been proven to be something a little heavier. 2016 HO3 which was observed last year, was announced at the Annual Division For Planetary Sciences Meeting to be an asteroid with a very distinct trajectory.
The asteroid has an orbit around the sun, but also around the Earth and Moon. It moves close enough for its existence to be complex but not close enough for scientists to study it.
Vishnu Reddy, Assistant Professor from the University and his team, observed 2016 HO3 when it got close enough the Earth. Unfortunately, the team could not determine the exact size of the asteroid however distinguished that would be no bigger than 100 metres. They did notice the asteroid reflect light and spin on its axis only twice within sixty minutes.
"While HO3 is close to the Earth, its small size – possibly not larger than 100 feet – makes it challenging target to study, our observations show that HO3 rotates once every 28 minutes and is made of materials similar to asteroids." ," Reddy explained in a statement.
There are five almost- satellites similar to 2016 HO3 in our solar system, 2016 HO3, however, has the most constant orbit of the five. These asteroids are considered quasi-satellites as their orbit isn’t consistently stable and has the ability to move over time. 2016 HO3 has the ability to stay in this orbit for 100 years as Earth is pushing into our orbit, which the satellite then joins.
The research was undertaken by using the Large Binocular Telescope. The observation means astronomers now have a specific target to study for future projects such as mining asteroids.
“Of the near-Earth objects we know of, these types of objects would be the easiest to reach, so they could potentially make suitable targets for exploration," said Christian Veillet, director of the LBT Observatory.
Lead image: UA News