But it is especially close to Earth, because its orbit makes it a constant companion to Earth. While it orbits the Sun, it also appears to be orbiting the Earth. Kamoʻoalewa is too far from Earth to be considered a true moon, but it is the best and most stable example we know so far of a so-called “near-Earth companion” or semi-human.
said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies. “Another asteroid – 2003 YN107 – orbited in a similar orbit over 10 years ago, but has since left us.”
In its annual orbit around the Sun, Kamoʻoalewa sits closer to the Sun than the Earth about half the time and then ends up at the Earth, and about half the Sun is farther away, leaving it behind the Earth.
“Asteroid rings around the Earth move a little forward or backward from year to year, but if they drift a lot forward or backward, Earth’s gravity is strong enough to reverse that and the asteroid never travels further than about 100 times the distance from the Moon,” Chodas said. The same effect prevents the asteroid from getting as close as 38 times the distance to the Moon. Essentially, this little asteroid is trapped in a dance with Earth.”
Sources: A press release from the University of Arizona and a press release from NASA’s JPL-Caltech.
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