• Mon. Nov 23rd, 2020

Dimancherouge

Technology

NASA expert identifies mysterious extraterrestrial object as old Centaur rocket booster

Earth may get a new “mini-moon” soon.

But it’s probably just an old rocket booster from 1966.

The mysterious extraterrestrial object once called “asteroid 2020 SO” now appears to be an old rocket from a failed moon-landing mission 54 years ago, according to NASA’s leading asteroid expert Paul Chodas.

The “asteroid” was on track to get nabbed by Earth’s gravitational pull and become a small moon next month.

The formerly known asteroid may actually be the Centaur upper-rocket stage that successfully propelled NASA’s Surveyor 2 lander to the moon in 1966. According to NASA, the lander ended up colliding into the moon after one of its thrusters failed to ignite.


Last month, this mysterious object was detected by a telescope in Hawaii, according to Space.com’s Meghan Bartels. The object is roughly estimated to be 26 feet based on its brightness—near the length of the old Centaur, which now would be less than its original 32 feet long, according to NASA.

“I’m pretty jazzed about this,” Chodas told the Associated Press’ Marcia Dunn. “It’s been a hobby of mine to find one of these and draw such a link, and I’ve been doing it for decades now.”

Observation will further help confirm the object’s identity.

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The one thing that drew Chodas to debunking the theory that Earth has a new mini-moon was that the mysterious object’s orbit around the sun is similar to the Earth’s, which is unusual for an asteroid, according to Space.com.

“I suspect this newly discovered object 2020 SO to be an old rocket booster, because it is following an orbit about the sun that is extremely similar to Earth’s, nearly circular, in the same plane, and only slightly farther away from the sun at its farthest point,” Chodas told CNN.

“I could be wrong on this,” Chodas told the Associated Press. “I don’t want to appear overly confident. But it’s the first time, in my view, that all pieces fit together with an actual known launch.”

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