When we talk about Earth satellites, we all think of the moon.
It has been our “natural companion” for billions of years and man has been seeing it as an immovable pillar.
However, it is not our only companion: from time to time, a smaller object, usually an asteroid, is captured by the gravity of our planet, staying by our side for a few months, even sometimes even years, and then continuing its path through space.
These are popularly known as mini-windows.
Although it is a phenomenon more or less understood by man, we have actually only been able to confirm two of these mini-windows: 2006 RH120,
Now, astronomers have detected a new object, called 2020 OS,on an incoming trajectory that most likely makes Earth’s gravity “capture” this object from next October to May 2021, according to astronomers’ predictions.
Physics and astrophysical professor Tony Dune has carried out the simulation of the trajectory of the object, which in his own words « will have a highly chaotic route», so we will have to submit its way to several revisions while it is nearby.
2020 SO has been classified as an Apollo-type asteroid, a class of asteroids whose path crosses Earth’s orbit.
Such bodies often surround our planet, but this one specifically has some peculiarities: Earth-like orbit and the low speed of 2020 SO suggest that it is not actually an asteroid;
Objects coming from the Moon also have a slower speed than asteroids, but this object is even slower.
That’s why everything points to us being in the face of space junk.
Most likely the stage of a Centaur rocket that launched an experimental payload called Surveyor 2 to the Moon in September 1966, explained by astronomer Paul Chodasof NASA’s JPL.
This is explained because for decades kind of rockets with multiple stages(something like “detachable” parts were used as the journey progressed).
The reinforcement stage returns to Earth and is reused, but the rest remain in space. And there are a lot of such objects there, besides that they are very easy to lose by human radars, which would explain why it had not been detected before.
The estimated size of 2020 OS matches that of a Centaur stage of the 1960s. According to NASA’s CNEOS database the object is between 6.4 and 14 meters long (a Centaur measures 12.68 meters). In addition, this database states that this object will likely take two turns close to Earth.
On December 1, 2020, it will pass at a distance of about 50,000 kilometers (31,000 milesi). Around February 2, 2021, it will fly at 220,000 kilometers.
Neither is close enough to enter the Earth’s atmosphere, so the object poses no danger at all.
But those distances, particularly at slow speeds, may be enough to study it more closely and determine what 2020 OS is.