A tiny mystery object is zipping past the Earth today, providing astronomers with an excellent opportunity to finally confirm it as being the upper stage of a Centaur rocket that was launched by NASA in 1966.
Is it or isn’t it? This is the question that astronomers have been asking since September, when scientists with the Pan-STARRS1 survey in Maui, Hawai’i, first spotted the object, named 2020 SO. Astronomers have good reason to believe it’s returning space junk, specifically a Surveyor 2 Centaur rocket booster dating back to the 1960s. Trouble is, they haven’t actually been able to prove it.
2020 SO normally orbits the Sun, but Earth’s gravity has, albeit temporarily, turned this object into an artificial minimoon. The object will complete a