NASA identified the mysterious object abandoned by a rocket 1996

Credits: NASA
Credits: NASA

A mysterious object temporarily orbiting Earth is a 54-year-old rocket and some people are confused that it was an asteroid. It was confirmed by astronomers on Wednesday. Observations made by a telescope in Hawaii clinched its identity and were confirmed by NASA. The object was classified as an asteroid after its discovery in September. But NASA’s top asteroid expert, Paul Chodas, quickly suspected it was the Centaur upper rocket stage from Surveyor 2, a failed 1966 moon landing mission. Size estimates had put it in the range of the old Centaur, which was about 32 feet long and 10 feet in diameter.

Chodas was proven right after a team led by the University of Arizona’s Vishnu Reddy used an infrared telescope in Hawaii to observe not only the mystery object. On Tuesday, a Centaur from 1971 still orbiting Earth. The data from the images match.

The object is formally known as 2020 SO entered a wide lopsided orbit around Earth last month and, Tuesday, made its closest approach at just over 31,000 miles. It will depart the neighborhood in March, shooting back into its own orbit around the sun. Its next return in 2036.


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