Science And Space

How to watch a weird mini-moon that might be space junk fly near Earth today

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This photograph from 1964 reveals a Centaur upper-stage rocket. Area object 2020 SO is likely to be certainly one of these.


NASA

The moon should not really feel too jealous. Earth has one other satellite tv for pc proper now, but it surely’s solely a brief fling. The precise identification of the thing, named 2020 SO, continues to be a lingering query, however you’ll be able to watch it on Monday, Nov. 30, when it will get near Earth. The Virtual Telescope Project will livestream the flyby.  

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The Earth’s gravitational pull captured the thing into our planet’s orbit earlier this month, which makes 2020 SO a kind of mini-moon. 

Often, we would expect an object like this to be an asteroid, and there are many these flying round in area. However 2020 SO could have a extra Earthly identification. The orbit of 2020 SO across the solar — which is similar to Earth’s — has satisfied researchers it is most likely not a rock, but is actually a piece of space junk from a NASA mission.      

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The item’s closest method to our planet might be on Dec. 1. The Digital Telescope Challenge will provide a livestream starting at 2 p.m. PT on Nov. 30

Digital Telescope Challenge founder Gianluca Masi already managed to seize a view of the tiny object on Nov. 22. It seems as a dot towards a backdrop of stars.

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The Digital Telescope Challenge caught sight of 2020 SO on Nov. 22. The arrow factors out the thing.

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Gianluca Masi/Digital Telescope Challenge

Scientists with NASA JPL’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) analyzed 2020 SO’s path and tracked it again in time.  

“One of many doable paths for 2020 SO introduced the thing very near Earth and the Moon in late September 1966,” CNEOS Director Paul Chodas said in a NASA statement earlier in November. “It was like a eureka second when a fast examine of launch dates for lunar missions confirmed a match with the Surveyor 2 mission.”

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NASA’s ill-fated Surveyor 2 lander ended up crashing on the moon’s floor, however the Centaur rocket booster escaped into area.   

NASA expects 2020 SO to stay round in an Earth orbit till March 2021 when it’ll wander away into a brand new orbit across the solar. The company’s Planetary Protection Coordination Workplace shared a visual of the object’s journey around Earth.

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The upcoming shut method ought to give astronomers an opportunity to dial in 2020 SO’s composition and inform us whether it is certainly a relic from the Nineteen Sixties.

Even with a telescope view, 2020 SO ought to appear to be a brilliant spot of sunshine touring towards the darkish of area. The cool factor is getting the prospect to witness a bit of area historical past returning to its previous stomping grounds.  

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