© marcelo celo from Pixabay
Researchers reveal that a slow-moving object of unknown origin has just completed a close flight from our planet, before returning to the solar system.
The mysterious space material is expected to return in March.
In this very moment, # 2020SO is having its safe fly-by with our planet, at about 50000 km from us. Here it is a image we did last night: see how its brightness changes regularly, while this object (Surveyor 2 booster) spins. The object is the dotted trail you see there. pic.twitter.com/iQmt0H0q5n
— Virtual Telescope (@VirtualTelescop) December 1, 2020
The strange “Minimoon” – officially called the 2020 SO – has been the subject of speculation since its discovery by the Pan-STARRS survey on September 17th. It was classified as an asteroid, but scientists so far do not have sufficient understanding of what the object is, and some have speculated that it is part of an ancient missile.
Whatever that is, the diameter of a space object is between five to ten meters, and it exceeds our planet at a distance of less than 50,000 kilometers, or only 13% of the distance to the moon, within the reach of our planet’s gravity, which means that it will return again within a few months.
The mystery surrounding the origins of the object stems from how it traveled, as it moves at a much slower speed than the vast majority of asteroids, which typically skip between 11 and 72 kilometers per second, and planetary defense scientists encounter them through telescopes and detection systems.
Meanwhile, the 2020 SO travels at just 0.6 kilometers per second.
Many in the scientific community believe it to be a remnant of the Surveyor 2 spacecraft, to the moon in 1966.
The Virtual Telescope Project said: “We are not sure that it is an asteroid (that is, a natural object), as it could be the missile support for NASA’s Surveyor 2 mission, which dates back to 1966.”