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NASA confirmed that the rare space object that …



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A team of scientists confirmed that the strange object is near Earth (NEO, for its acronym in English) 2020 SO It’s a Centaur booster rocket from the 1960s. Astronomers were discovered in September by astronomers looking for nearby asteroids and eventually attracted the interest of the entire scientific community because of its unusual size and orbit.

To confirm the artificial origin of the object, the scientists used data collected at the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) and orbit analysis from the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. from NASA.

A detailed analysis of the SO 2020 orbit revealed that it had come close to Earth several times over the decades, with a focus in 1966 bringing it close enough to suggest that it may have originated on our planet.

Comparing this data with the history of NASA’s previous missions, Paul Chodas, director of CNEOS, concluded that 2020 SO could be the Centaur top-stage rocket booster of NASA’s failed Surveyor 2 mission to the Moon.

With this in mind, a team led by Vishnu Reddy, associate professor and planetary scientist at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, conducted subsequent 2020 SO spectroscopic observations using NASA’s IRTF in Maunakea, Hawaii.

The work behind detection

“Due to the extreme weakness of this object following the CNEOS prediction, it was a difficult object to characterize. We had color observations with the Large Binocular Telescope, or LBT, which He suggested that 2020 SO was not an asteroid “Reddy said in a statement.

Through a series of follow-up observations, Reddy and his team analyzed the 2020 SO composition using NASA’s IRTF and compared SO 2020 spectrum data with 301 stainless steel, the rocket-boosting material. Centaur in the 1960s.

Although not initially perfect, the team continued to realize that the discrepancy in spectrum data could be the result of testing new steel in a laboratory versus steel that would have been exposed to inclement weather in space. for 54 years. This prompted the group to undertake additional research.

“We knew that if we wanted to compare apples with apples, we would have to try to get spectral data from another Centaurus rocket booster that had been in Earth’s orbit for many years and then see if it would correspond better to spectrum 2020 SO, ”Reddy said.

“Due to the extreme speed at which Centaur rotors that rotate the Earth travel through the air, we knew it would be very difficult to repair the IRTF long enough to have a robust and reliable dataset,” he added.

The key to a second rocket

Despite these difficulties, early in the morning on December 1, Reddy and his team achieved what they considered impossible.

Scientists noticed another Centauro D booster rocket from the 1971 communications satellite launch that was a Geostationary Transmission Orbit, long enough to get good spectrum.

The team then compared this new data with SO 2020 and found that the spectra were consistent with each other, conclusively concluding that SO 2020 is also a Centaur rocket booster.

“This conclusion was the result of a tremendous team effort. This mystery has finally been solved thanks to the wonderful work of Pan-STARRS, Paul Chodas and the team from CNEOS, LBT, IRTF and worldwide observations, ”said Reddy.

2020 SO made its closest approach to Earth on December 1, 2020 and will remain within the circle of the Earth’s gravitational zone, a region in space called the “Hill Sphere” that extends approximately 1.5 million kilometers from our planet , until she retreated to a new orbit around the Sun in March 2021.

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