FP TrendingSep 25, 2020 11:36:21 IST
Many asteroids or natural satellites get sucked into Earth’s orbit for a short while and end up revolving around our planet while revolving around our star. These then either manage to leave the orbit and get back on track revolving around the Sun or get sucked into Earth’s atmosphere.
A similar object has been spotted now and it could enter Earth’s orbit sometime this year. Observers are of the opinion that it could be a mini-moon. But it has a very similar orbit to that of the Earth, prompting observers to count in the chance for the object to be a space junk that was made by humans in the 1960s.
Back in February this year, a couple of astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona first detected the new object and said that it could be a possible mini-moon. It was named 2020 SO by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), NASA. In the series of images shared by the astronauts, the object appeared as a flash of light darting across space.
BIG NEWS (thread 1/3). Earth has a new temporarily captured object/Possible mini-moon called 2020 CD3. On the night of Feb. 15, my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Teddy Pruyne and I found a 20th magnitude object. Here are the discovery images. pic.twitter.com/zLkXyGAkZl
— Kacper Wierzchoś (@WierzchosKacper) February 26, 2020
Owing to the similarity in its orbit, observers analyzed 2020 SO’s current movements and extrapolated them backwards in time by using computer simulations. These experiments have revealed that this object would have last orbited Earth in 1966 or 1967, reported Live Science. Now, this can mean two things: either 2020 SO is a natural satellite that last orbited Earth in the 1960s or it is part of a man-made rocket that was launched during this period.
Asteroid 2020 SO may get captured by Earth from Oct 2020 - May 2021. Current nominal trajectory shows shows capture through L2, and escape through L1. Highly-chaotic path, so be prepared for lots of revisions as new observations come in. @renerpho @nrco0e https://t.co/h4JaG2rHEd pic.twitter.com/RfUaeLtEWq
— Tony Dunn (@tony873004) September 20, 2020
Dr Paul Chodas, director of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, shared his calculations about the object being a booster rocket. Speaking to CNN, the scientist said 2020 SO’s “nearly circular” orbit is “precisely the kind of orbit that a rocket stage separated from a lunar mission would follow, once it passes by the Moon and escapes into orbit about the Sun. It's unlikely that an asteroid could have evolved into an orbit like this, but not impossible.”
He linked the object with the launch of Surveyor 2 on 20 September 1966.
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