A brand new mini-moon about to hitch Earth’s orbit. It may very well be a booster rocket from the 60s

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Nonetheless, somewhat than some asteroid that can orbit across the Earth, it could really simply be some previous area junk that made its manner again to our planet.

Dr. Paul Chodas, the director of NASA’s Heart for Close to Earth Object Research, believes that the item, named Asteroid 2020 SO, is an previous booster rocket from the 1960s.

“I think this newly found object 2020 SO to be an previous rocket booster as a result of it’s following an orbit concerning the Solar that’s extraordinarily just like Earth’s, almost round, in the identical airplane, and solely barely farther away the Solar at its farthest level,” Chodas informed CNN.

“That is exactly the type of orbit {that a} rocket stage separated from a lunar mission would comply with, as soon as it passes by the Moon and escapes into orbit concerning the Solar. It is unlikely that an asteroid might have developed into an orbit like this, however not unattainable.”

Chodas analyzed the movement of the asteroid backwards in time to try to hyperlink it with any identified lunar mission launch and located that it was possible within the “neighborhood of the Earth again in late 1966.”

He mentioned that correlates with the launch of Surveyor 2 on September 20, 1966. That mission was designed to have a mushy touchdown on the Moon, however a failure led to the spacecraft crashing, Chodas mentioned. The Centaur rocket that was used to spice up the spacecraft handed by the Moon and went into orbit close to the Solar and has not been seen once more, till now, Chodas suspects.

Earth has a new mini-moon -- but it's only temporary

The article is prone to enter right into a distant orbit round Earth in late November, and if it is an asteroid it could be thought-about a mini-moon. Nonetheless, if it’s a booster rocket as Chodas suspects, it’ll simply be one other piece of area particles floating round area.

“In a month or so we are going to get a sign of whether or not or not 2020 SO actually is a rocket physique, since we must always begin with the ability to detect the impact of daylight strain has on the movement of this object: if it truly is a rocket physique, will probably be a lot much less dense than an asteroid and the slight strain resulting from daylight will produce sufficient change in its movement that we must always be capable to detect it within the monitoring information,” Chodas mentioned.

It’s uncommon for long-lost rocket phases to be captured from orbit concerning the Solar and into orbit concerning the Earth, and this may solely be the second occasion of a rocket stage getting captured from orbit.

The one different time it occurred was in 2002 from what might have been the Saturn V higher stage from Apollo 12, Chodas mentioned.

CNN’s Ashley Strickland contributed to this report.

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