NASA confirms mysterious object orbiting Earth is 1960s-era rocket booster

The mystery is finally over — the space object that was captured by Earth’s orbit is indeed a rocket booster from the 1960s, NASA confirmed.

On Wednesday, the government space agency said the object known as “2020 SO” is not an asteroid, but rather a part of a Centaur rocket booster from the Surveyor 2 spacecraft, which launched toward the moon in 1966.

“Due to extreme faintness of this object following [Center for Near-Earth Object Studies] prediction it was a challenging object to characterize,” said Vishnu Reddy, an associate professor and planetary scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, in a statement. “We got color observations with the Large Binocular Telescope or LBT that suggested 2020 SO was not an asteroid.” 

This 1964 photograph shows a Centaur upper-stage rocket before being mated to an Atlas booster. A similar Centaur was used during the launch of "Surveyor 2" two years later. Credit: NASA

This 1964 photograph shows a Centaur upper-stage rocket before being mated to an Atlas booster. A similar Centaur was used during the launch of “Surveyor 2” two years later. Credit: NASA

MYSTERIOUS OBJECT THAT COULD BE 1960S ROCKET BOOST WILL FLY PAST EARTH TODAY: HOW TO VIEW IT

“This conclusion was the result of a tremendous team effort,” Reddy added. “We were finally able to solve this mystery because of the great work of Pan-STARRS, Paul Chodas and the team at CNEOS, LBT, [Infrared Telescope Facility], and the observations around the world.”

On Tuesday, the rocket booster made its closest brush with Earth, when it came within 50,000 kilometers (31,000 miles) of the planet, according to Virtual Telescope Project founder Gianluca Masi.

NASA has posted a video of 2020 SO’s looping orbits around the Earth.

Unfortunately, the Surveyor 2 never completed its journey, crashing on the lunar surface on Sept. 23, 1966. However, the Centaur booster “sailed past the Moon and disappeared into an unknown orbit about the Sun,” NASA said previously.

The rocket booster was initially discovered by the Pan-STARRS survey on Sept. 17, 2020 and announced two days later.

2020 SO initially “slowly drifted” into Earth’s Hill sphere on Nov. 8, 2020, and will remain there for roughly four months before it goes back into orbit around the sun in March 2021.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

Source Article

Read more

Mysterious object that flew by Earth has finally been identified



2020 so


© Provided by BGR
2020 so

  • The object originally dubbed Asteroid 2020 SO appears to be a long-lost rocket booster that left Earth in 1966 and finally came back.
  • The booster was part of a failed NASA mission to the Moon, and it has apparently been orbiting the Sun ever since.
  • Space junk is becoming an increasingly serious problem, and manmade trash in space could pose a threat to future missions.

Back in September news began to circulate that an object was headed for Earth. That alone wouldn’t be particularly big news, but what made this revelation so interesting is that nobody knew what the object actually was. Was it an asteroid? Perhaps it was, but some scientists offered a different explanation, and now that the object has safely passed by Earth it appears they were probably correct.

The strange near-Earth object originally dubbed Asteroid 2020 SO turned out to be likely manmade. It is now believed to be the remains of a very old rocket that was launched way back in the 1960s. As the mysterious visitor passed by Earth, images of it helped to potentially reveal its true identity, and remind us yet again that humans have a habit of leaving trash wherever they go.

BGR’s Top Deal of the Day

Click here to read the full article.

Researchers working with the Virtual Telescope Project held a live stream event to track the object as it approached our planet. The high-powered hardware was able to lock onto the bright dot as it cruised through space, and astrophysicist Gianluca Masi, the founder of the project, noted that it was “likely” a piece of NASA hardware that has come back to visit.

Scientists had suspected that the object might not really be an asteroid for some time. This was based on the fact that the object appeared to have a very similar Sun-centric orbit to Earth’s, and the relatively low velocity 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 is indeed what it turns out to be — is thought to be a Centaur booster launched way back in September of 1966. It was part of the Surveyor 2 mission which was supposed to send a lunar lander to the Moon’s surface. Unfortunately, the spacecraft lost control and the mission failed as a result, but the rocket booster appears to have lived on, making trips around the Sun and eventually catching back up with Earth.

If a rocket booster from 1966 can come back to “haunt” us after that long, then it’s no surprise that Earth is surrounded by pieces of manmade junk that just won’t go away. Recently, the European Space Agency made the decision to spend the equivalent of roughly $100 million for a mission that will remove a single large piece of space junk from the area around our planet. The mission will launch sometime in 2025.

S

Read more

NASA: Mystery object is 54-year-old rocket, not asteroid

Scientists have confirmed that a mysterious object temporarily orbiting Earth is a 54-year-old rocket, not an asteroid after all

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A mysterious object temporarily orbiting Earth is a 54-year-old rocket, not an asteroid after all, astronomers confirmed Wednesday.

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 (10 meters) long and 10 feet (3 meters) in diameter.

“Today’s news was super gratifying!,” Chodas said via email. “It was teamwork that wrapped up this puzzle.”

The object formally known as 2020 SO entered a wide, lopsided orbit around Earth last month and, on Tuesday, made its closest approach at just over 31,000 miles (50,476 kilometers). It will depart the neighborhood in March, shooting back into its own orbit around the sun. Its next return: 2036.

———

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Source Article

Read more

Mystery object is 54-year-old rocket, not asteroid

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A mysterious object temporarily orbiting Earth is a 54-year-old rocket, not an asteroid after all, astronomers confirmed Wednesday.



FILE - This Sept. 20, 1966 photo provided by the San Diego Air and Space Museum shows an Atlas Centaur 7 rocket on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Fla. A mysterious object temporarily orbiting Earth is the Centaur upper stage of this 54-year-old rocket, not an asteroid after all, astronomers confirmed Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Observations by a telescope in Hawaii clinched its identity, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (Convair/General Dynamics Astronautics Atlas Negative Collection/San Diego Air and Space Museum via AP)


© Provided by Associated Press
FILE – This Sept. 20, 1966 photo provided by the San Diego Air and Space Museum shows an Atlas Centaur 7 rocket on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Fla. A mysterious object temporarily orbiting Earth is the Centaur upper stage of this 54-year-old rocket, not an asteroid after all, astronomers confirmed Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Observations by a telescope in Hawaii clinched its identity, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (Convair/General Dynamics Astronautics Atlas Negative Collection/San Diego Air and Space Museum via AP)

Observations by a telescope in Hawaii clinched its identity, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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 (10 meters) long and 10 feet (3 meters) in diameter.



In this Aug. 13, 1965 photo provided by the San Diego Air and Space Museum, technicians work on an Atlas Centaur 7 rocket at Cape Canaveral, Fla. A mysterious object temporarily orbiting Earth is a Centaur 7 upper stage rocket, not an asteroid after all, astronomers confirmed Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Observations by a telescope in Hawaii clinched its identity, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (Convair/General Dynamics Astronautics Atlas Negative Collection/San Diego Air and Space Museum via AP)


© Provided by Associated Press
In this Aug. 13, 1965 photo provided by the San Diego Air and Space Museum, technicians work on an Atlas Centaur 7 rocket at Cape Canaveral, Fla. A mysterious object temporarily orbiting Earth is a Centaur 7 upper stage rocket, not an asteroid after all, astronomers confirmed Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Observations by a telescope in Hawaii clinched its identity, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (Convair/General Dynamics Astronautics Atlas Negative Collection/San Diego Air and Space Museum via AP)

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, but — just on Tuesday — a Centaur from 1971 still orbiting Earth. The data from the images matched.

“Today’s news was super gratifying!,” Chodas said via email. “It was teamwork that wrapped up this puzzle.”

The object formally known as 2020 SO entered a wide, lopsided orbit around Earth last month and, on Tuesday, made its closest approach at just over 31,000 miles (50,476 kilometers). It will depart the neighborhood in March, shooting back into its own orbit around the sun. Its next return: 2036.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Continue Reading

Source Article

Read more

NASA determines mystery space object 2020 SO is a ’60s rocket booster

centaurupperstage1964

This photo from 1964 shows a Centaur upper-stage rocket. Space object 2020 SO is one of these.


NASA

Welcome back, Surveyor 2 Centaur rocket booster. We just got a new chapter in a bittersweet space saga that involves a fiery launch, a doomed moon mission and decades of space wanderings. 

A rocket booster NASA used to launch the Surveyor 2 lunar lander in 1966 has returned to us for a temporary spin as a mini-moon in orbit around Earth. When scientists spotted it in September, they named it 2020 SO. On Wednesday, NASA announced the strange object has been positively identified as the ’60s booster.

While the booster did its job admirably back in 1966, the lander didn’t survive a crash landing on the moon’s surface.   

The booster’s specific orbit around the sun tipped astronomers off that it probably wasn’t an asteroid, one of the many space rocks that zip around our cosmic neighborhood. Some sleuthing tracked the booster back to near Earth in 1966. 

Telescope observations have now revealed the stainless steel composition of 2020 SO. This cosmic detective work involved comparing spectrum data on the enigmatic object with data gathered on a known Centaur rocker booster that’s been floating around in space since 1971. It was a match. 

The object has attracted a lot of interest due to the mystery surrounding it and the fact that it was captured into an Earth orbit that makes it a cute little visiting mini-moon. The Virtual Telescope Project livestreamed 2020 SO when it came in close to Earth on Nov. 30.

The Centaur booster will stick around with us for a few months, but is expected to continue its space adventures back in orbit around the sun sometime in March 2021. At which point we can all say, “Goodnight, Centaur. Goodnight, mini-moon.”


Now playing:
Watch this:

Boeing talks rocket science and NASA’s biggest ever space…



22:16

Source Article

Read more

An Object Approaching Earth’s Orbit Is Not An Asteroid [Infographic]

The Pan-STARRS1 survey telescope on Maui has discovered an object that is headed for Earth’s orbit. This isn’t out of the ordinary except that this object is apparently not an asteroid. In fact, it may even be man-made. After studying the new object scientists concluded that it’s not dense enough to be a solid object. Which means it is probably hollow. This has led to the theory that this object might be the Centaur upper stage rocket booster that helped NASA’s Surveyor 2 reach the Moon in 1966.

Earlier this year in September the mysterious object was discovered and named 2020 SO. As astronomers continued to observe the object, they noticed that the Sun’s radiation was changing the object’s trajectory. This means that the object is most likely not an asteroid as radiation from the Sun would have a hard time pushing a solid object of this size. However, if the object were hollow or if it just has a low density then the effect of the radiation would be explained.

“Solar radiation pressure is a non-gravitational force that is caused by light photons emitted by the Sun hitting a natural or artificial object,” said Davide Farnocchia, a navigation engineer at JPL, who analyzed 2020 SO’s trajectory for CNEOS. “The resulting acceleration on the object depends on the so-called area-to-mass ratio, which is greater for small and light, low-density objects.”

If 2020 SO is not an asteroid then what could it be? Well CNEOS Director Paul Chodas looked at the speed and trajectory of the object and turned back the clock to see where the object came from. As it turns out one of the possibilities is that it came close to Earth in 1966. After checking launch dates it seems that everything matches up with the Surveyor 2 mission.

For now, this is still unconfirmed, however, 2020 SO will make two loops around the Earth between now and March when it will leave the influence of Earth’s gravity and continue in its orbit around the sun. During that time it will be the closest on December 1st and astronomers should be able to get a fairly good look. 

Never a boring month when it comes to near-Earth objects. Below is a list of objects coming close to our planet in the coming month (2020 SO is of course on the list). For more information please visit the CNEOS website.

Source Article

Read more

Helicopter Pilots Spot Sci-Fi-Looking Object In Utah’s Red Rock Country : NPR

This monolith was discovered in rural Utah, but officials do not know its source or reason for being installed.

Utah Department of Public Safety


hide caption

toggle caption

Utah Department of Public Safety

This monolith was discovered in rural Utah, but officials do not know its source or reason for being installed.

Utah Department of Public Safety

State officials were flying over southeastern Utah looking for sheep as part of a routine task. Instead they found something straight out of a sci-fi movie.

From a helicopter, officers from the Utah Department of Public Safety spotted a large metal monolith — a single block of metal or stone — last week. It was sitting in Utah’s Red Rock Country in the southeast. Officials have no idea how or when it got there — or who might have placed it.

“That’s been about the strangest thing that I’ve come across out there in all my years of flying,” helicopter pilot Bret Hutchings told KSL TV.

Hutchings said the structure appeared to be 10 to 12 feet tall and looked like it was planted there — not dropped from the air. In any case, officials said it isn’t legal.

“It is illegal to install structures or art without authorization on federally managed public lands,” said the Utah Department of Public Safety in a statement, “no matter what planet you’re from.”

It also referenced the structure’s out-of-this-world appearance on social media.

“We came across this, in the middle of nowhere, buried deep in the rock. Inquiring minds want to know, what the heck is it? Anyone?” wrote the department in an Instagram post.

As for would-be visitors, officials decided not to disclose the exact location of the monolith. It’s in a remote area — and if people attempt to visit it, “there is a significant possibility they may become stranded and require rescue,” the department said in its statement.

Utah’s Bureau of Land Management is assessing whether further investigation is necessary.

Hutchings has his own theory.

In the classic sci-fi film 2001: A Space Odyssey, a group of prehistoric ape-men were baffled by a large black monolith that appeared in an African desert.

“I’m assuming it’s some new-wave artist or something,” Hutchings said, according to KSL TV. “Somebody that was a big fan [of the film].”

One man stands on the shoulders of another to peer on top of the monolith.

Utah Department of Public Safety


hide caption

toggle caption

Utah Department of Public Safety

One man stands on the shoulders of another to peer on top of the monolith.

Utah Department of Public Safety

Source Article

Read more
  • Partner links