Asteroids heading towards our planet do not represent anything new at all, but we’re dealing with something else this time. The object known as 2020 SO will enter our atmosphere soon, as astronomers spotted it during usage of the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pen-STARRS) observatory from Hawaii.
The main assumption is that the mysterious object is a rocket booster belonging to NASA’s Surveyor 2 mission.
Surveyor 2 crashed on the Moon in 1966
If the scenario is true, humanity should consider itself lucky to get a sample of the historic Surveyor 2 mission, which occurred during the Appollo era. Dr. Paul Chodas, director of NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies, explained for CNN why he bets on the rocket booster to be the mysterious object:
“I suspect this newly discovered object 2020 SO to be an old rocket booster because it is following an orbit about the Sun that is extremely similar to Earth’s, nearly circular, in the same plane, and only slightly farther away the Sun at its farthest point,”
He also adds:
“That’s precisely the kind of orbit that a rocket stage separated from a lunar mission would follow, once it passes by the Moon and escapes into orbit about the Sun. It’s unlikely that an asteroid could have evolved into an orbit like this, but not impossible,”
Astronomers still need to be assured that 2020 SO is not actually an asteroid. But even if it is, it shall pose no threat to Earth. NASA reveals through its CNEOS database that the object measures between 6.4 and 14 meters long. This means that if the object dives deep into our atmosphere, it will be disintegrated due to air friction.
Therefore, we have a lot more to wait until a deadly asteroid ever visits us. Hopefully, it will happen in a distant future so that humanity can come up with better ideas for dealing with such a cosmic threat.