For over 4.5 billion years, the Moon had always been the Earth’s sole companion, the planet’s only satellite but scientists from NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California have recently announced the discovery of a second moon!
It seems that this moon has been around for about a century but because it only measures around 120 feet across and no more than 300 feet wide (as opposed to the Moon’s 1,737.1-km radius or 3,474.2-km diameter), this new moon was only discovered very recently.
Moreover, its distance from the Earth varies from 38 times to as much as 100 times the distance between the Earth and the primary moon.
Considering that it is both much smaller and farther from the Earth than the primary moon, it is understandable that it took NASA a long time to find it – but despite its “mini-moon” status, it still is a real natural satellite of the Earth.
Now called the 2016 HO3, this heavenly body is believed to be an asteroid captured by the Earth’s gravitational pull. It is in a perpetual dance around the Earth as all three (the Earth, the Moon, and 2016 HO3) revolve around the sun.
Thankfully, there is no danger of this thing crashing to the Earth or to the moon; though at some point in the centuries to come, it might break away from the Earth’s gravity and fly off to space, possibly to be captured by another planet should it come close enough.
Oh, don’t expect to see 2016 HO3 in the skies anytime soon since it is too small and too far to be seen by the naked eye. The Moon is still the Earth’s primary satellite and the only one visible from the ground, so far, but this does not change the fact that for about a hundred years, the Earth has captured a second moon, albeit a small (mostly “invisible”) one…