NASA scientists announced the discovery of a quasi-satellite, a small asteroid orbiting the sun in a path which makes it a companion of the Earth. It's path makes it appear to be orbiting the earth, albeit in a wonky sort of orbit; but because of it's distance to the earth it is not considered a true moon.
The asteroid is designated 2016 HO3 and was first spotted April 27, 2016 by an observatory in Hawaii. Astronomers have not yet determined its size, but estimate that it is between 40 and 100 meters (roughly 120-300 feet). Guided by Earth's gravitational field, at it's nearest approach, HO3 is about 38 times the distance of the Moon from the Earth and at it's farthest, about 100 times that distance.
Although other quasi-satellites accompanying the Earth have been discovered before, HO3 is the most stable. Astronomers calculate that it first became captured by Earth's gravity about a century ago and will likely continue to accompany Earth for centuries to come.
Game and Story Use
- In a near future campaign, an expedition is sent to 2016 HO3. What will they find?
- It's probably too small to put a base on it, but someone might have left something there.
- What was going on a hundred years ago when it first became captured in Earth's gravitational system?
- Mostly The Great War
- Of course, if the rock is motile (as below) the calculated capture date could be way off…
- Perhaps the asteroid is actually an alien spaceship
- Asteroid ships are a recognized concept in sci-fi.
- "2016 HO3?" Surely if this thing is "our constant companion" we could do a John Denver shout-out and call it Raven's Child…