Next week, Earth’s second moon will reach closer to the planet before flowing into space, never to appear again.
“Is the second moon,” you ask? Astronomers call it 2020 SO – A small object that fell in half the Earth’s orbit between our planet and the moon in September 2020. Temporary satellites such as these are known as minimons, although calling it a moon is a bit misleading in this case; In December 2020, NASA researchers learned that the object is not a space rock, but rather Remnants of 1960s rocket boosters Involved in US Surveyor Moon Mission.
This non-moonmoon made its closest approach to Earth on 1 December (the day before NASA recognized it as a long-lost booster), but it is coming back in the lap of another victory, According to EarthSky.org. Minimoon 2020 SO will make the final close approach between the Earth and the Moon on Tuesday (February 2), about 140,000 miles (220,000 kilometers) from Earth.
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According to EarthSky, the booster will completely leave Earth’s orbit by March 2021. After that, the former minimum would be just another object orbiting the Sun. The virtual telescope project in Rome will bid farewell to the object online on the night of 1 February.
NASA found out that the object had made several close access to Earth in 1966, even the relatively close year in 1966 – the agency launched its Surveyor 2 lunar probe behind the Centaur Rocket Booster. This gave scientists their first big clue that the 2020 SO was man-made; He confirmed this after comparing the chemical makeup of the object with another rocket booster, which has been in orbit since 1971.
Godspeed, Minimum 2020 S.O. We created you. We abandoned you. And now, you abandon us.
Originally published on Live Science.