NASA says mystery object is 54-year-old rocket, not asteroid


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – A mysterious object temporarily orbiting Earth is a 54-year-old rocket, not an asteroid after all, astronomers confirmed on Wednesday.

Observations from a telescope in Hawaii have confirmed his identity, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The object was classified as an asteroid after its discovery in September. But NASA’s foremost asteroid expert Paul Chodas quickly suspected it was the top stage of Surveyor 2’s Centaur rocket, a failed moon landing mission in 1966. Size estimates l ‘had placed in the range of the ancient Centaur, which was approximately 32 feet (10 meters) long and 10 feet (3 meters) in diameter.

Chodas was proven just after a team led by Vishnu Reddy from the University of Arizona used an infrared telescope in Hawaii to observe not only the mysterious object, but – just Tuesday – a 1971 centaur orbiting it. Earth. The data in the images match.

“Today’s news was super gratifying!” Chodas said via email. “It was teamwork that brought this puzzle to a conclusion.”

The object officially known as 2020 SO entered a wide, unbalanced orbit around Earth last month and, on Tuesday, made its closest approach to just over 31,000 miles (50,476 kilometers) . It will leave the neighborhood in March, returning to its own orbit around the sun. His next comeback: 2036.


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