Many scientists had been puzzled by the space object known as 2020 SO that was approaching Earth. The speculations were at duty once again – is it an asteroid? Is it space junk from a former mission of NASA or other space agencies? Could there be visitors from another planet? The object is trapped in Earth’s orbit now, and researchers from NASA finally figured out its origin.
The American space agency had to deploy some fancy gears to track down the 2020 SO object. The Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) and analysis from the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were needed.
2020 SO belongs to a NASA mission from the 1960s
Despite the high hopes of some people that 2020 SO is belonging to a more interesting source, it seems like the mysterious object is only a 1960’s-Era Centaur rocket booster from NASA’s Surveyor 2 lunar lander. The spacecraft landed on our natural satellite in 1966, and the big announcement of solving the mystery comes from NASA itself.
After analyzing the 2020 SO’s orbit, the conclusion of the researchers was that the object had come close enough to our planet several times before. After comparing data with the history of former NASA missions, Paul Chodas, the CNEOS director, had a big hunch that 2020 SO could be the Centaur upper stage rocket booster from the Surveyor 2 mission of NASA from 1966.
Vishnu Reddy, the leader of the research team and also a planetary scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory from the University of Arizona, declared as cited by nasa.gov:
Due to extreme faintness of this object following CNEOS prediction it was a challenging object to characterize,
We got colour observations with the Large Binocular Telescope or LBT that suggested 2020 SO was not an asteroid.
Unfortunately or not, those who are waiting for alien visitors will have to wait even more.