The mysterious object that could be the rocket booster of the 1960s will fly from Earth today: how to see it


Look at the sky – it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … space junk?

A mysterious space object that has been captured by Earth’s orbit and is widely believed to be a rocket booster since the 1960s, it can now reach the skies as it gets closer to the planet.

NASA said in November that the object, known as the 2020 SO, is believed to be a part of the Centaur rocket booster from the Surveyor 2 spacecraft, although this has not been confirmed.

This 1964 photo shows the Centaur upper stage rocket before being sent for an Atlas booster. A similar Centaur was used two years later during the launch of Surveyor 2. Credit: NASA

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The Virtual Telescope Project is live-streaming the flyby of a newly-minted Earth satellite. It is expected to have its closest brush with our planet when 2020 SO arrives within 50,000 kilometers (31,000 mi) of Earth on December 1, VTP founder Jianluca Masi wrote on the project’s website.

NASA has posted a video of the 2020 SO looping orbit around the Earth.

This will allow flyby astronomers to determine if it is actually part of the Centaur upper stage rocket booster that raises Surveyor 2, or something else.

“The near-Earth object 2020 SO discovered by the Pan-StarRS survey on 17-September 2020, and announced two days later by the Minor Planet Center, has an estimated diameter of 4.5 – 10 m (source: NASA / JPL)., “Masi added. “We are not sure if this is an asteroid (which is a natural body), as it may be the rocket booster of Surveyor 2 NASA mission, dating back to 1966. Also, from 8 November 2020 to March 2021, it Will happen.” Be a temporary satellite of our home planet. ”

Whether 2020 SO is man-made or an asteroid, its orbit around the Sun is similar to that of the Earth, leading NASA to believe that it is actually a part of Surveyor 2, which was launched toward the Moon in 1966.

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Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, said in a November statement, “One of the possible paths for 2020 SO brought it very close to the Earth and Moon in late September 1966.” “It was like a Eureka moment when a quick check of launch dates for lunar missions showed a match with the Surveyor 2 mission.”

Unfortunately, Surveyor 2 never completed its journey, crashing on the lunar surface on September 23, 1966. However, the Centaur Booster “overtook the Moon and disappeared in an unknown orbit about the Sun,” NASA said.

On March 8, 2020, the 2020 SO initially “slowly drifted” across the Earth’s mountainous region, and would remain for about four months before moving back into orbit around the sun in March 2021.

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