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No, Earth Does Not Have 2 Moons

In a mad rush to gain hits to their sites, media outlets are at it again with headlines such as: “SURPRISE: Earth has two moons” and “Earth now has a second moon” or even “Earth has a second ‘mini’ moon, says NASA.”

So, did NASA say anything about a moon? No.

While headlines such as the ones above sound great, they are not an accurate description for the asteroid NASA astronomers discovered.

The asteroid, now named 2016 HO3, was first sighted on April 27, 2016. The Pan-STARRS 1 asteroid survey telescope, which is operated by the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, made the discovery.

The object is likely to be larger than 120 feet (40 meters), but smaller than 300 feet (100 meters); however, the exact size has yet to be confirmed. 2016 HO3 is in an orbit around the Sun, keeping it as a constant companion of Earth. NASA researchers believe that this will be the case for centuries to come.

As 2016 HO3 orbits the Sun, it also circles around Earth too, although it is too far away to be considered a true satellite of our planet. However, it is the best example of a near-Earth companion, or “quasi-satellite.” Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement:

Asteroid 2016 HO3 spends around half of the time closer to the Sun than Earth during its yearly travel around the Sun. It also passes ahead of our planet, and about half of the time farther away, which causes it to fall behind.

According to NASA, its orbit is also tilted a little, causing it to bob up and then down once each year through Earth’s orbital plane. In effect, this small asteroid is caught in a game of leap frog with Earth that will last for hundreds of years. The asteroid’s orbit also undergoes a slow, back-and-forth twist over multiple decades. Chodas added:

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