The Moon inspires poets, musicians and lovers on duty since the world is a world. The solitude of Earth’s only natural satellite is a raw material for many artists, but anyone who thinks that the star dances completely alone in the orbit of our planet is mistaken: from time to time, the Moon gains the company of small asteroids that end up attracted by Earth orbit – and one of these is about to approach.
These celestial objects are called mini-moons and, although theoretically there were several orbiting the Earth, only 2 so far have been confirmed: the 2006 RH120, which was around in 2006 and 2007, and the 2020 CD3, which surrounded our planet between 2018 and 2020. The new star is called 2020 SO and should approach in October, staying in orbit until May next year. Check out its estimated orbit:
Asteroid 2020 SO may get captured by Earth from Oct 2020 – May 2021. Current nominal trajectory shows shows capture through L2, and escape through L1. Highly-chaotic path, so be prepared for lots of revisions as new observations come in. @renerpho @nrco0e https://t.co/h4JaG2rHEd pic.twitter.com/RfUaeLtEWq
— Tony Dunn (@tony873004) September 20, 2020
Mini-moons are usually made up of asteroids, but the 2020 SO has curious features that suggest that it is something quite different. For now, it has been classified as an Apollo asteroid, which is part of a class that usually approaches Earth. However, it can be something quite different – and created by man!
The 2020 SO’s approach speed is much lower than any other Apollo asteroid that has ever been in our neighborhood. This has led scientists to believe that it is space junk, more specifically the Centaur stage discarded from a rocket in 1966 – that was the failed mission that launched the Surveyor 2 lunar module. The estimated size between 6.4 and 14 meters matches with that of the rocket, which was 12.68 meters long at the time.