Earth Gears Up for a New Little Moon – But Astronomers Are Confused About Its Origin | Science | News

An object known as 2020 SO is heading towards Earth, and as of October, it will be a “ little moon, ” which could remain in the orbit of our planet until May of next year. While we have the moon, Earth regularly gets many small asteroids and meteorites that get stuck in its orbit, which astronomers call “little moons”.

The definition of a moon is any natural object captured in a planetary gravity.

Astronomers have now discovered a small, non-threatening object heading towards Earth that can be stuck in the planet’s gravitational pull for up to eight months, according to a simulation from astronomers.

The simulation video shows the 2020 SO object taking two near-Earth approaches while in orbit.

The first will come on December 1, when it will fly about 50,000 kilometers (31,000 miles).

Then the object looks as if it will try to swing away from our planet, before being absorbed again by the gravitational pull to close up on February 2, 2021.

However, this is only from initial observations and could easily change over the next few months.

Astronomer Tony Dunn said: “The asteroid 2020 SO may be captured by Earth from October 2020 to May 2021. The current nominal path shows the capture via L2, and escape through L1.

“It’s a very messy path, so be prepared for lots of reviews as new notes pop up.”

Read more: NASA news: The Juno spacecraft takes a ‘dramatic photo’ of Jupiter’s eclipse

More specifically, Chodas said it was likely a piece of a rocket from the Surveyor 2 spacecraft that was sent to the moon all the way back in 1966.

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Astronomer Kevin Haider said: “The Asteroid 2020 SO is suspected to be the support missile for the Surveyor 2 Centaur, which was launched on September 20, 1966.

“The Earth’s similar orbit and low relative velocity indicate a possible human-made object.”

Earth’s last small moon came earlier this year when the planet’s orbit caught a tiny meteor called 2020 CD3, which was roughly the size of a car.

The space rock stayed in orbit for three months, before continuing its journey through the solar system in March.

Phil Schwartz

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