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Welcome to the Neighborhood, 2016 HO3!

By: Novarah Kazmi
The neighborhood is getting a bit more crowded, and as astronomers have observed, it's a busy place. In fact, on April 27th, 2016 astronomers at the Pan-STARRS 1 asteroid survey telescope in Haleakala, Hawaii observed Earth's newest neighbor, 2016 HO3. Asteroid 2016 HO3 is considered a "quasi-satellite," according to Paul Chodas from NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) studies. It's not orbiting Earth like our Moon, it’s orbiting the Sun, but has been pulled by the Earth's gravity.

HO3's orbit causes it to "leap frog" around Earth. During the year it will run ahead of our planet and later on, appear to fall behind. HO3 isn't the first asteroid to do this dance with Earth; asteroid 2003 YN107 did a similar tango with Earth for ten (10) years before it moved on. That said, 2016 HO3 won’t become the Earth's newest moon, but it will stick around for the next few centuries. If that's hard to imagine, don't worry, using AGI's Systems Tool Kit (STK), we can model the orbit of HO3 starting from the date it was first observed. We can see the orbit of the asteroid around the Sun and trace the orbit as it appears around Earth! Take a look for yourself! "JPL Small-Body Database Browser." JPL Small-Body Database Browser. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 17 June 2016. Web. 17 June 2016. Plait, Phil. "Another Moon for Earth? Well, Not Really, but It Depends on Your Point of View." Slate Magazine. Bad Astronomy, 17 June 2016. Web. 17 June 2016. "Small Asteroid Is Earth's Constant Companion." Small Asteroid Is Earth's Constant Companion. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 15 June 2016. Web. 17 June 2016.
Posted: 6/23/2016 1:22:43 PM