Will the earth have its second mini moon discovery in 2020? Unlikely.


We have a huge moon overhead and you might be thinking, "that's enough moons." But sometimes the earth gets greedy and attracts small asteroids for long stays in orbit. The brief visits to these "mini moons" are quite rare, only two have been confirmed so far. The last came on February 15 when Tiny Rock 2020 was CD3 discovered by astronomers at the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey. The wonderful mini moon was already trapped by the earth's gravity in 2015 and stayed with us until May 2020 before it fell back into the cosmos.

But in the unprecedented year 2020, astronomers announced the discovery of another potential mini moon: 2020 SO.

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Except that it doesn't behave like a small asteroid at all. Our mini moon is not a moon at all. It moves far too slowly to be expelled from a cosmic body. Because of this, it's likely just space junk left over from the early days of the space race.

The current theory is that 2020 SO is the missile body of an Atlas Centaur-D missile that was originally launched in 1966. The rocket launched on September 20 with the moon lander Surveyor 2 to the moon. The 2020 SO dimensions and orbit, released by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, appear to be precisely aligned with the Centaur body.

The object is gripped by gravity in October and approaches closest on December 1, reaching a distance of approximately 31,000 miles. Astronomers should be able to take a closer look at the object and assess its shape and the type of light it emits.

If it's the Centaur stage – if it's junk – it's still more interesting junk. It's been on the move for over five decades, wandering the solar system. Maybe we can learn about the effects of space on our ancient missile bodies. And while it won't cause any problems for Earthlings, as far as we can tell, it serves as timely Reminder of the space junk problem.

Since we launched rockets and satellites into orbit, we have been polluting the space around our planet. Not everything that goes up comes down immediately. There are thousands of space junk, defunct satellites, and tiny lumps of trash orbiting the earth at great speed. A collision with a piece of junk could be devastating and blast a hole right through a missile or satellite. More launches mean more junk, and more junk poses a much greater risk to space travel, satellites, and our desire to occupy space.

You don't even have to look back more than 24 hours to see how potential space debris problems arise. On Tuesday, The International Space Station had to let a "maneuver burn" to avoid having an unknown piece of cosmic junk hurtling towards it.


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