A strange space object that was captured by Earth’s gravity in September, giving us a new, temporary “mini-moon,” was confirmed Tuesday to be space junk.
NASA said the object is the lost 1960s-era upper-stage rocket booster from the ill-fated Surveyor 2 that crashed on the moon 54 years ago.
The confirmation came when the object got within 3,000 miles of Earth on Dec. 1 and from data collected by NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility on Mauna Kea, Hawaii and a three-month orbit analyses conducted at the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, according to the science and nature website EarthSky.org.
The object was first seen in September by astronomers in Hawaii. It was captured by Earth’s orbit in November and is expected to remain our temporary, junk moon until March, according to EarthSky.
The robotic spacecraft Surveyor 2 was suspected as a source of the object early on, although there was also speculation over whether the object, dubbed 2020 SO, could be an asteroid.
“This isn’t the first time Earth has captured a mini-moon. But it’s an awesome story of a lost-and-found rocket, originally launched from Earth more than 50 years ago,” writes EarthSky.