The strange story of 2020 SO: how an asteroid rocket turned into junk and was discovered by a NASA scientist

As soon as he saw the data, Paul Chodas knew that there was something strange about the object near the Earth, which was named 2020 SO.

It should have been one of the tens of thousands of space rocks that astronomers have seen bouncing through our neighborhood in space. This solar system debris is mostly harmless, but scientists can identify and track an object in the event it collides with the Earth. As head of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, Chodas evaluates observations of these objects every day.

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