Is it a new asteroid mini-moon or a man-made mini-moon? This is the question about a small object called 2020 SO. NASA’s tiny body database predicts that the object will be caught by Earth’s gravity in October 2020 and will be temporarily stuck in orbit.
However, some of the remarkable features of the 2020 SO suggest that it may not be a small asteroid that orbited our planet as briefly as the previous two temporary mini-moons. Instead, this new object could actually be an old object from Earth – part of an old second-level rocket from the Surveyor 2 lunar lander mission launched in 1966.
Mini-moons, or TCOs (temporarily captured objects) are probably more known than history, but only two have been confirmed: the 200 RH2020, which sat in Earth orbit from 200 to 200 2007 and was discovered earlier this year. , 2020 CD3, From 2018 to 2020 in Earth orbit these objects were clearly small space rocks.
However, the trajectory models of the 2020 SO show that one of its orbits is very similar to that of Earth, and is moving at a very low speed – about 1.60 miles per hour (3,025 km / h) or 0.84 km (.5 miles / second) per second. This is an extremely slow motion for an asteroid, even a part of the style that could come out of the moon. Also, the size of the 2020 SO is estimated to be between 20 and 45 feet (6 to 14 meters), which is certainly comparable to the Center-D stage which was part of the Surveyor 2 mission, measuring about 41 feet or 12 meters.
Trajectory calculations show that the object orbits the Sun every 1.06 years (387 days). It should be held in the hands of the earth temporarily from October 2020 to about May 2021.
Amateur astronomer Kevin Heider said on Twitter That on December 1, 2020, approximately SO will only illuminate about an apparent dimension of 14.1 during the nearest approach, and will require a telescope with an object lens of about 150 mm (6 ″) to see spectacularly.
Astronomers at the Pan-StarRS1 Telescope in Hawaii first identified the SOK on September 17, 2020. They identified it as an asteroid and added it to the JPL Small-Body database as the Apollo asteroid. Apollo asteroids are a class of asteroids whose paths cross Earth’s orbit and often face near Earth.
You can play around with the 2020 SO’s orbital trajectory at this link.
In a message group for astronomers, it was mentioned that Paul Chodas, manager of the Earth Object Center near NASA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, suggested that the object could be a surveyor’s rocket booster. In another message, observations showed that it had become chaotic.
On September 20, 192or, Surveyor 2 began its journey to the moon. Apollo was supposed to land on the moon for reconnaissance for human missions, but a mid-course correction failed after no thruster was ignited, and NASA eventually. Has lost contact with the spacecraft. The failure caused the spacecraft to spiral out of control and crash into the moon, near Copernicus Crotter.
Astronomers will observe this object as it is caught by the Earth’s gravity and will be able to say for sure what the 2020 SO actually is.
Further reading: Future, Arthasky