NASA says mystery object orbiting Earth is 54-year-old rocket and not asteriod

A mysterious object orbiting Earth is a 54-year-old rocket, not an asteroid after all, it has been confirmed.

The item was initially classified as an asteroid in September but observations from a telescope in Hawaii finally identified the object, according to Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

It was eventually identified by Nasa’s leading asteroid expert, Paul Chodas, who pinpointed the object as 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 long and 10 feet in diameter.

Mr 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 a Centaur from 1971 still orbiting Earth. Data from the images matched.

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

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 more than 31,000 miles. It will depart the neighbourhood in March, shooting back into its own orbit around the sun and will return in 2036

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Lancs Live – Cumbria