Has the NASA rocket returned? The object, first spotted in September, is within a radius of 31,000 miles from Earth and is suspected to be a piece of Surveyor 2 from 1966.
- Object 2020 SO was spotted on a trajectory to Earth on September 17
- Some astronomers have said it is an asteroid, but more research is needed
- Others noticed its curved orbit, which suggested it might not be a natural asteroid
- Now many say it’s a discarded piece of NASA’s 1966 Surveyor 2 rocket.
- The object has just passed the Earth at about 31.00 miles around 3:50 a.m. Tuesday Tuesday
- Scientists will use the data and images from the flight to confirm
Scientists may soon solve the mystery of SO SO, an object discovered in September that could be the NASA’s 1966 Surveyor 2 Centaur rocket, which is returning home, or just an asteroid.
At around 3:50 a.m. Tuesday morning, 2020, SO came 31,605 miles from Earth, allowing astronomers to collect images and data on the mysterious object.
It was first discovered by the Pan-STARRS study in Hawaii on September 17 and announced two days later by the Center for Small Planets.
Astronomers originally thought the SO was an incoming asteroid, but details about its size seem to match the properties of the 1966 Centaur, which is 41.6 feet long – the object is between 12 and 46 feet long.
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At around 3:50 a.m. Tuesday morning, 2020, SO came 31,605 miles from Earth, allowing astronomers to collect images and data on the mysterious object. The top image shows 2020 SO as a strip of light across the sky
Pan-STARRS spotted the object on the evening of September 17, following a light but clearly curved path in the sky that led them to believe it was an asteroid.
Another team in California, funded by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Sites (CNEOS), saw the same object, but thought something was out of order because of its orbit.
CNEOS Paul Chodas is one of those who is suspicious of the discovery and has decided to “turn the clock back” to see the object’s orbit back in hopes of discovering where it was before making its way into Earth’s gravity.
Chodas found that the 2020 SO approached the Earth several times over the decades, but his approach in late 1966, according to his analysis, would be close enough to be able to originate from Earth.
Astronomers originally thought the SO was an incoming asteroid, but details about its size seem to match the properties of the 1966 Centaur, which is 41.6 feet long – the object is between 12 and 46 feet long. The photo shows the rocket before it was launched on the moon
“One of the possible pathways for 2020 SO brought the object very close to Earth and the Moon at the end of September 1966,” Chodas said.
“It was like a moment in Eureka, when a quick check of the launch dates of lunar missions showed a coincidence with the Surveyor 2 mission.”
NASA’s JPL has said it will use spectroscopy when the 2020 SO makes the closest approach this morning, which will confirm exactly what it is.
2020 SO is currently stuck in Earth’s gravity and orbits the planet.
Chodas told the New York Times that he would get out of our grip by March 2021 and begin his journey around the sun again.
However, he also notes that “in 2036 he is returning”, giving scientists another chance to study SO SO.
2020 SO is currently stuck in the Earth’s gravity and orbits the planet, but will get out of the grips of our planet by March 2021 and will resume its journey around the sun
The lunar landing Surveyor 2 was launched to the moon on September 20, 1966 aboard the Atlas-Centaur rocket.
The mission was tasked with reconnaissance of the lunar surface before the Apollo missions, which led to the first landing on the moon in 1969.
Shortly after takeoff, Surveyor 2 successfully separated from its upper Centaur booster as intended.
But control of the spacecraft was lost a day later when one of its propulsion systems failed to ignite, throwing the vessel into rotation.
The spacecraft crashed into the moon southeast of Copernicus Crater on September 23, 1966.
The spent rocket from the upper stage of the Centaur sails past the moon and disappears into an unknown orbit around the sun.
But NASA and other astronomers may find that she has returned for a short visit.
ASSISTANT 2: THE SICK LUNAR CAMP WHO LOSES HIM
Surveyor 2 was supposed to be the second lunar lander launched by NASA as part of the American Surveyor program to explore the moon.
It was launched in September 1966 from Cape Kennedy in Florida aboard the Atlas-Centauri rocket.
1966 was a busy year for lunar missions – the USSR’s Luna 9 spacecraft became the first to make a soft landing on the moon and send photos.
In May, Surveyor 1 became the first US spacecraft to land and send photos.
Then in September, Surveyor 2 had to do the same – but from a different site – but the crash landed.
Surveyor 2 failed to adjust in the middle of the course, as a result of which the spacecraft lost control.
Contact was lost on September 22, two days after it was first launched.
During a mid-course correction maneuver, the engine failed to start – causing an imbalance and a fall for 54 hours.
It crashed near Copernicus Crater on the lunar surface on September 23 – three days after the launch.