NASA reveals Earth’s ‘mini-moon’ 2020 SO is definitely just space junk
Welcome back, Surveyor 2 Centaur rocket booster. We just got a new chapter in a bittersweet space saga that includes a fiery start, a doomed lunar mission, and decades of space travel.
A rocket booster that NASA used to launch the lunar lander Surveyor 2 in 1966 has returned to us to temporarily spin around the earth as a mini moon in orbit. When scientists discovered it in September, they named it SO in 2020. On Wednesday, NASA announced that the strange object had been clearly identified as a ’60s booster.
While the booster did its job admirably in 1966, the lander did not survive a crash landing on the lunar surface.
The booster’s specific orbit around the sun, one of the many space rocks that revolve around our cosmic neighborhood. Some investigations tracked the booster close to Earth in 1966.
Telescope observations have now shown the stainless steel composition of 2020 SO. This cosmic detective work involved comparing spectrum data from the enigmatic object with data collected on a well-known Centaur rocker booster that has been floating around in space since 1971. It was a match.
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The object has drawn a lot of interest due to the mystery that surrounds it and the fact that it was captured in Earth orbit, which makes it a cute little mini moon. Thewhen it came near Earth on November 30th.
The Centaur booster will stay with us for a few months but is expected to continue its space adventures in orbit around the sun in March 2021. At this point we can all say, “Good night, centaur. Good night, mini moon.”