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 orbited the Earth in September 2020 between our planet and the moon, nearly half.
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 discovered that the object is not a space rock at all, but the remains of a 1960s rocket booster involved in US Surveyor Moon missions.
According to EarthSky.org, this non-moonmoon reached the closest to Earth on December 1, the day NASA identified it (1 day before it was identified as the Long-Lost Booster).
Minimoon 2020 SO will make a final close approach to Earth on Tuesday (February 2) at a distance of about 140,000 miles (220,000 kilometers) from Earth or close to 58 percent between Earth and the Moon.
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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 over the decades, even the relatively close year in 1966 – the agency launched its Surveyor 2 lunar probe behind a 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.
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This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.