According to scientists, our planet has more than just one moon. Surprised? Don’t be; the facts are stunning!
The moon is not the only natural satellite that orbits our beloved planet Earth. Now don’t think of this SECOND moon as another MASSIVE white rock in the sky.
Earth’s “second” satellite is dubbed 2006 RH120, and it’s actually a “mini-moon,” a “quasi-satellite” rather than a large celestial body like the “MOON” Moon. Discovered in April 2016, it is the most stable quasi-satellite of Earth.
Basically, 2006RH120 is a space rock that measures around 91 meters in length, and the reason we do not know much about it is that its a “new kid on the block” in space, having been orbiting us barely a century, which very little time in galactic terms. Its current quasi-satellite episode started nearly 100 years ago, and it will end in about 300 years from now.
“Our calculations indicate 2016 HO3 has been an enduring quasi-satellite of Earth for almost a century, and it will continue to follow this pattern as Earth’s companion for centuries to come,” wrote NASA.
But how can it be a moon?
Well, technically speaking, a moon is a celestial body that orbits another, because of the force of gravity that the larger body exerts. There is no minimum size needed to be classified as a moon, so any object in the universe that orbits a planet can be considered a moon—a natural moon.
The moon is our natural satellite because it orbits around us thanks to the force of gravity that our planet exerts, otherwise it would simply be a celestial body like the other billions that are in the universe.
2006 RH120 orbits around the Sun, but every 20 years and for approximately thirteen months, it falls within the force of gravity that the Earth exerts which is why its trajectory is modified, becoming a natural satellite of the Earth.
Oh and Earth can have countless MOONS!
The chances of an asteroid colliding with our moon and forming a new and larger natural satellite are few, but they still exist nonetheless.
That makes sense and should not surprise us too much.
However, the most astounding thing about the discovery is that, theoretically, Earth could have an infinite number of satellites.
Astronomers suggest that given the immense amount of asteroids floating in our entire Solar System, the chances of one entering Earth’s gravitational field are relatively high. That is, eventually, any asteroid can end up in orbit around Earth and become a moon.
The key is to understand that to become a moon; it doesn’t take much.
As mentioned above, there is no size nor a minimum mass required to obtain a moon’s status.
Anything that orbits our planet naturally, regardless of its size, could be considered a moon.