- The object originally dubbed Asteroid 2020 SO appears to be a long-lost missile that left Earth in 1966 and finally returned.
- The booster was part of a failed NASA mission to the moon, and it appears to have orbited the sun ever since.
- Space junk is becoming an increasingly serious problem, and man-made junk in space could pose a threat to future missions.
In September, news began to circulate that an object was headed for Earth. This alone wouldn’t be particularly important news, but what made this revelation so interesting is that no one knew what the object actually was. Was it an asteroid? Maybe it was, but some scientists have offered a different explanation, and now that the object has passed safely from Earth it looks like they were probably right.
The strange near-Earth object originally dubbed Asteroid 2020 SO was likely to be man-made. Now believed to be the remains of an old rocket launched in the 1960s. When the mysterious visitor passed by the Earth, his images helped potentially reveal his true identity and remind us once again that humans have a habit of leaving trash wherever they go.
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Researchers working with the Virtual Telescope Project organized a live streaming event to monitor the object as it approached our planet. The high-powered hardware was able to lock onto the bright spot as it passed through space, and astrophysicist Gianluca Masi, the founder of the project, noted that it was “probably” a piece of NASA hardware that returned to visit. .
Scientists had suspected that the object may not really be an asteroid for some time. This was based on the fact that the object appeared to have a Sun-centered orbit very similar to Earth’s, and the relatively slow speed of 2020 SO offered further clues that it was actually just a piece of junk we accidentally sent flying around the Sun.
The rocket – if that’s what it turns out to be – is thought to be a Centaur booster launched in September 1966. It was part of the Surveyor 2 mission that was supposed to send a lunar lander to the surface of the Moon. Unfortunately, the spacecraft lost control and the mission failed as a result, but it appears that the rocket’s booster survived, making trips around the Sun and eventually reaching Earth.
If a 1966 rocket can come back to “haunt us” after so long, it’s no surprise that the Earth is surrounded by pieces of man-made junk that simply won’t go away. Recently, the European Space Agency decided to spend the equivalent of around $ 100 million on a mission that will remove a single large piece of space junk from the area around our planet. The mission will be launched in 2025.