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New mini moon could actually be old space junk coming back to haunt us

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A Centaur second stage rocket during assembly in 1962.
image:: NASA

Earth will soon be welcoming a transient mini moon, but this newly discovered object, a seeming asteroid, could indeed be of unnatural origin – a booster rocket from the 1960s.

The object, referred to as 2020 SO, was recently co-discovered by astronomers the Pan-STARRS1 telescope in Hawaii. It’It is expected to be a temporary mini moon, a phenomenon that happens from time to time As you pass asteroids, do a few loops around the earth before continuing your heavenly journeys around the sun. That happened recentlyFor example with an object named 2020 CD3.

Calculations show that the 2020 SO stay as a mini moon will begin in October 2020 and last until around May 2021. Reports EarthSky. NASA did cataloged the object in his JPL Small Body database browser and named it an asteroid, specifically an asteroid of the Apollo family, due to its physical and orbital properties.

Not to be confused with the Apollo space program of the 1960s and 1970s. Apollo asteroids are near-Earth asteroids that are no closer than 1.017 AU to the Sun, where 1 AU is the average distance between asteroids Earth and The sun. Apollo asteroids also have a semi-major axis (half the longest length of an elliptical orbit) greater than 1 AU and are no longer than 10 km. 2020 SO poses no threat to Earth as it won’t get any closer according to the JPL database as around 50,640 km (31,400 miles). The property is estimated at 20 to 20 45 feet (6 – 13.7 meters long.

But here’s the thing – this object may not be an Apollo asteroid, or not an asteroid at all. Paul Chodas, director of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, believes it is actually space junk, namely a surveyor 2 centaur Rocket booster launched by NASA on September 20, 1966. Here is what he is told CNN:

I suspect this 2020 SO newly discovered object is an old rocket amplifier because it follows an orbit [around] the sun, which is very similar to the earth, almost circular, in the same plane and only slightly further away [from] the sun furthest. This is exactly the kind of orbit a rocket stage separate from a moon mission would follow once it passed the moon and escaped into orbit around the sun. An asteroid is unlikely to have evolved into such an orbit, but not impossible.

As Chodas points out, much evidence suggests it This thing is of unnatural origin. 2020 SO the sun orbits every 387 days, which is very close to our planet’s 365-day orbit. It also moves very slowly at a speed of 3,025 km / h, which is painfully slow for an asteroid. Chodas turning back-constructed the object’s orbit and determined that 2020 would have been SE near our planet in late 1966, so the timing matches well.

That particular NASA mission ended with the Surveyo failingr 2 Countries crashed near Copernicus crater on the moon. T.The upper tier of the centaurs used in the mission flew past the moon to never be seen again.until maybe now.

We’ll know more in late October when this thing gets close enough for scientists to take new measurements, including spectrographic observations that will reveal its chemical composition. At this point, We will be able to determine whether SO will be made from rock or synthetic materials in 2020.

Should we prove it is a Centaur senior, this will only be the second time something like this has happened. As Chodas told CNN, a Saturn V upper stage of Apollo 12 returned for a visit in 2002.

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