Astronomy

Can we have a second moon?

Can we have a second moon?


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

This question sounds like silly and rather fantasy filled. But can our earth's gravity capture a sizable asteroid and make it rotate around our earth like our moon which become visible from ground. Is there any theoretical possibility or practical probability?


At this stage of our solar system it is impossible for something with size of moon to fall in inner orbit. But smaller things like asteroids do fall in, and become captured by earths gravity. but they aren't big enough to see with naked eye. For example 2006 RH120 is a near earth asteroid which orbited Earth from September 2006 to June 2007.


Here's a second and third moon: Telstar 1 and 2.

Telstar 1 and 2-though no longer functional-still orbit the Earth.

Here's a song about Telstar 1. It was a hit for The Tornados back in 1962.


Earth set to get a new mini-moon - but astronomers are confused by its origin

Link copied

Asteroid 2020 SO: Animation reveals nominal trajectory

When you subscribe we will use the information you provide to send you these newsletters. Sometimes they'll include recommendations for other related newsletters or services we offer. Our Privacy Notice explains more about how we use your data, and your rights. You can unsubscribe at any time.

An object known as 2020 SO is heading towards Earth, and from October, it will be a 'mini-moon', which could stay in orbit of our planet until May next year. While we have The Moon, Earth regularly gets many small asteroids and meteors which caught in its orbit, which astronomers call 'mini-moons'.

Related articles

The definition of a moon is any natural object which is caught in a planets gravitational pull.

Now astronomers have detected a small, non-threatening object which is heading towards Earth, and could get caught in the gravity of the planet for up to eight months, according to simulations from astronomers.

A video of the simulation shows the object 2020 SO making two close approaches to Earth while in orbit of our planet.

The first will come on December 1, when it will fly by at a distance of around 50,000 kilometres (31,000 miles).

Earth set to get a new mini-moon - but astronomers are confused by its origin (Image: GETTY)

2020 SO has a chaotic orbit (Image: TONY DUNN - TWITTER)

The object then looks like it will make an attempt to swing away from our planet, before getting sucked back in by the gravitational pull for a close approach on February 2, 2021.

However, this is only from initial observations and could easily change over the next few months.

Astronomer Tony Dunn said: "Asteroid 2020 SO may get captured by Earth from Oct 2020 - May 2021. Current nominal trajectory shows shows capture through L2, and escape through L1.

"Highly-chaotic path, so be prepared for lots of revisions as new observations come in."

2020 SO could be a discarded piece of rocket (Image: GETTY)

Related articles

However, experts have noticed something strange about the incoming mini moon.

The velocity of 2020 SO is much slower than any space rock, which has led to suggestions it could be something man-made.

The average space rock travels at a speed of anywhere between 11 kilometres per second, and 72 kilometres per second.

The object 2020 SO has a speed of just 0.6 kilometres per second.

NASA's Paul Chodas of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has identified the object as possibly being a piece of old space junk.

Phases of the Moon (Image: EXPRESS)

Trending

More specifically, Mr Chodas said it is likely a piece of rocket from the Surveyor 2 spacecraft which was sent to the Moon all the way back in 1966.

Astronomer Kevin Heider said: "Asteroid 2020 SO is suspected of being the Surveyor 2 centaur rocket booster, launched on 20 September 1966.

"The Earth-like orbit and low relative velocity suggest a possible man-made object."

Earth's last mini-moon came earlier this year when a small meteor called 2020 CD3, which was about the size of a car, was captured by the planet's orbit.

The space rock stayed in orbit for around three months, before continuing its voyage across the solar system in March.


Possible new 'minimoon' discovered orbiting Earth

It's been with us for three years, astronomers say. Sadly, it'll probably be gone by spring.

Tumbling through Earth's increasingly crowded orbit are about 5,000 satellites, half a million pieces of human-made debris and only one confirmed natural object: the moon. Now, astronomers working out of the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory think they may have discovered a second natural satellite — or at least a temporary one.

Meet 2020 CD3, Earth's newest possible "minimoon."

BIG NEWS (thread 1/3). Earth has a new temporarily captured object/Possible mini-moon called 2020 CD3. On the night of Feb. 15, my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Teddy Pruyne and I found a 20th magnitude object. Here are the discovery images. pic.twitter.com/zLkXyGAkZlFebruary 26, 2020

A minimoon, also known as a temporarily captured object, is a space rock that gets caught in Earth's orbit for several months or years before shooting off into the distant solar system again (or burning up in our planet's atmosphere).

While astronomers suspect there is at least one minimoon circling Earth at any given time, these tiny satellites are rarely discovered, likely because of their relatively small size. Until now, only one confirmed minimoon has ever been detected: a 3--foot-wide (0.9 meters) asteroid called 2006 RH120, which orbited Earth for 18 months in 2006 and 2007.

Now, there may be a second. Kacper Wierzchos, a senior research specialist for the NASA and University of Arizona-funded Catalina Sky Survey, announced the discovery of a new temporarily captured object via Twitter yesterday (Feb. 25). The object appears to measure between 6.2 and 11.5 feet (1.9 to 3.5 m) in diameter and has a surface brightness typical of carbon-rich asteroids, Wierzchos wrote.

According to an orbital model by amateur astrophysicist and San Francisco high school physics teacher Tony Dunn, the potential minimoon has likely been trapped by Earth's gravity for about three years now and could make its exit in April 2020, resuming its regularly scheduled journey around the sun.

Here's an animated GIF of our new mini-moon 2020 CD3, discovered by @WierzchosKacper. Rotating frame keeps the Earth/Sun line stationary. Orbital elements courtesy of IUA MPEC. https://t.co/dok3jn3G9hhttps://t.co/x1DXWLq2vm pic.twitter.com/O3eRaOIYjBFebruary 26, 2020

In a perfect universe, our departing minimoon would fly off and become trapped by the moon's gravity, creating an even rarer class of object: a moonmoon. Sadly, moonmoons remain only theoretical, and our possible new minimoon comes with some caveats of its own. While the object's existence has since been confirmed by several other observatories, further analysis is required to say for certain that the object is an extraterrestrial rock and not a large shard of space junk. Hopefully, we'll have an answer before April.

With impressive cutaway illustrations that show how things function, and mindblowing photography of the world&rsquos most inspiring spectacles, How It Works represents the pinnacle of engaging, factual fun for a mainstream audience keen to keep up with the latest tech and the most impressive phenomena on the planet and beyond. Written and presented in a style that makes even the most complex subjects interesting and easy to understand, How It Works is enjoyed by readers of all ages.
View Deal

Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.

Thank you for signing up to Live Science. You will receive a verification email shortly.


Ask Ethan: Does Earth Really Have A Second Moon?

Asteroid 2016 HO3 has an orbit around the sun that keeps it as a constant companion of Earth. Image . [+] credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Since ancient times, humans have gazed at Earth's moon and wondered about its origins, its place in the Universe and why it was our only one. After the discoveries of Jupiter, Saturn and many other worlds with multiple moons -- including even our neighbor Mars , with more than one -- it left us scratching our heads as to why Earth only has one. Yet even this assumption may turn out to be false, as recent reports declared that we have a second moon! Is this really true? Wayne Griffith wants to know:

I came across Asteroid 2016 HO3 online and I wonder if it is true?

It is true we do have a small object orbiting in the vicinity of Earth, and a good enough skywatcher with the right equipment can find it for themselves!

The orbits of all the known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids, as of 2013. This includes asteroids . [+] that have been gravitationally captured by the Earth-Sun system. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

There are two different ways that a planet can have a natural satellite. The one you're most familiar with -- the path that the "old" Moon follows -- occurs when an object is directly bound to its parent body. That means it has a certain speed and orbits at a certain distance from a planet to remain in direct orbit around it for an arbitrarily long time. It can't be too far away or too elliptical in nature, or the tug from other worlds and objects in the Solar System will destroy or eject it over time. If we take a look at each one of the moons in the Solar System, they all have those characteristics.

But you don't need to be directly bound to a planet in order to remain a natural satellite of it. Just as the planets are in stable orbits around the Sun, each orbital distance has its own stable or quasi-stable set of paths around it.

A contour plot of the effective potential of the Earth-Sun system. Objects can be in a stable, . [+] lunar-like orbit around the Earth or a quasi-stable orbit leading-or-trailing (or alternating between both both) the Earth. Image credit: NASA / Wikipedia.

If you drew an equilateral triangle around the Sun with the orbit any planet -- like Earth, for example -- at one of the vertices, the other two vertices would be known as quasi-stable points, or the Lagrange points L4 and L5. They're not exactly bound to the Earth, nor are they completely stable in their orbits they way the Moon is around our world. But it will take many millions or even billions of years for a mass that made its way to that point, in a stable orbit around the Sun, to get kicked out by gravitational perturbations from the other masses in the Solar System. It isn't just those exact points, either masses that orbit the Sun near those L4 and L5 points remain in quasi-stable orbits, either leading or trailing the main planet's orbit (or vacillating between the two) for incredibly long periods of time.

A model of the Trojan asteroids around Jupiter, using Celestia. Image credit: Guillermo Abramson, . [+] via http://fisica.cab.cnea.gov.ar/estadistica/abramson/celestia/.

Jupiter was first discovered to have these classes of objects, known collectively as Trojan asteroids. (Originally, the ones around L4 and L5 were treated separately, with one group called Greeks and the other Trojans as a throwback to the warring factions in the Iliad for once in history, at least as far as naming conventions go, the Trojans came out ahead.) But not only are all the gas giants known to have them now, but Mars was discovered to have a handful as well. These asteroids can be incredibly tiny, and there are likely a whole slew around all the bodies in the Solar System that are simply too small to detect with conventional telescopes. They're not true moons, since they're only quasi-stable, with most getting kicked out of these orbital configurations on timescales of thousands of years. (Although some will last for millions of years!)

So now we come to Earth. Do we have any Trojan asteroids that co-orbit with us, around the Sun? It may come as a surprise to most of you, but Asteroid 2016 HO3 isn't even the first "second moon" known to exist around Earth's vicinity!

That honor goes to the asteroid 3753 Cruithne, which was discovered way back in 1986, and also orbits the Sun in the vicinity of Earth. Like most of the Trojan asteroids, it appears to make a bean-shaped path as seen from Earth, but with a nearly 365 day orbit as well, its position can reliably be predicted a long way into the future. As far as we can tell, this asteroid will be a stable, quasi-satellite of Earth for thousands of years to come.

As all-sky surveys have gotten more and more powerful, smaller and smaller objects can be resolved at great distances from Earth. In 2006, the Catalina sky survey discovered another small quasi-satellite of Earth: 2006 RH 120 . In 2010, a third object in this class, (419624) 2010 SO16 , was discovered by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission. And so the hoopla surrounding this latest asteroid -- Asteroid 2016 HO3 -- is very much unwarranted. Sure, it's the newest one, discovered just this past April by the Pan-STARRS 1 asteroid survey telescope on Haleakala, Hawaii, but it's still just an asteroid: no larger than 100 meters across. The only thing that makes it remarkable, and different from the other quasi-satellites, is that it's not in a Trojan-like orbit, going around the Sun and coincident with Earth, but rather is directly bound to Earth like the Moon is!

Still, it's in a quite elliptical orbit, it's over a thousand times more tenuously bound than the Moon is, and it's likely to be ejected by gravitational encounters within centuries or millennia, not millions of years. In fact, there used to be another asteroid in this same style of orbit -- Earth-orbiting -- known as 2003 YN107, but it went back to being in a horseshoe orbit in 2006. In a few centuries at most, so will this new asteroid. So if you want your moons to last, none of these objects are going to cut it. They call them "astronomical timescales" for a reason, and if you can measure what they do in mere human lifetimes, they're a long way from being in the same category as a true moon!

Send in your questions and suggestions for Ask Ethan to startswithabang at gmail dot com.


The Progressed First Quarter Moon

(90°-134°)

During the Crescent phase we have crawled out of the egg and – supported by our parents – we have experienced rapid growth and acquired feathers. For a while now we have been practicing flapping our wings, flexing our flight muscles and preparing for take off. Now, at First Quarter it is time to fly. So regardless of our age and circumstances, First Quarter usually brings a clean break from the past, a cutting of the umbilical cord and greater independence. When this phase arrives we may want to turn our back on what was a familiar but too restricting environment and so we will quite likely undergo tests of strength, courage and judgement. If we look at diagram we can see why this is so and what other themes may be playing out at First Quarter.

If the Progressed New Moon can be compared to transits or progressions to the IC, it follows that Progressed First Quarter is similar to planets crossing the Descendant. All cycles can be represented by the pattern of a wave and diagram shows how I think the lunation cycle -and indeed all other planetary cycles- relate to the four angles of a chart. The lowest and most amorphous point of the wave and also of the chart is the IC the point of midnight the proverbial seed, invisible, hidden in the ground or the womb. Next, from New Moon to Full Moon, comes the waxing half of the cycle the wave goes up and reaches its zenith or apotheosis at the point of noon the MC the highest point in the chart. Then follows the waning part of the cycle: the wave goes down. Between New Moon and Full, half way up, we reach a critical juncture as we cross the Ascendant-Descendant axis. At this point we leave the private realm of the lower and enter the public arena of the upper hemisphere.

If we have been taking instructions while adhering to certain traditions, we may now feel ready to make our own choices, formulate our own philosophies, or decide on our own methods. We may feel we are now ready to start our own business, or, if we are already self-employed, to take on a bigger challenge and enter a new market or launch a new product. If we have been writing a book the First Quarter is an appropriate time to send the manuscript to the publishers.

Whatever happens it is clear that at First Quarter we may have to face competition and the judgement of others and there is no doubt that to many of us this is a frightening prospect. On the eve of the publication of The Lord of the Rings, at his progressed First Quarter, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in a letter to a friend: "I am dreading the publication, for it will be impossible not to mind what is said. I have exposed my heart to be shot at." [7] Under these circumstances it is natural to turn to friends and allies so we do not have to face the enemy alone. When we try to manage without the support of parents of parental figures our peers become more important. At First Quarter we may therefore need to associate ourselves with kindred spirits, join clubs of find partners to help us through this rite of passage. From this perspective we can also see how throughout the ages leaving home has – especially for women- been almost synonymous with getting married the spouse in many ways replaces the parent of the opposite gender. Weddings are therefore quite a common event at First Quarter. Princess Diana is a prime example as her wedding at her Progressed First Quarter also heralded the beginning of her life as a public figure and her rivalry with Camilla Parker. However, because of the First Quarter tendencies to break away from the past to gain independence, divorces are as common as weddings at this phase. The one, of course, does not necessarily exclude the other. When John Lennon reached his Progressed First Quarter he divorced his first wife, married Yoko Ono and started his solo-career, all typical First Quarter actions.
If we are too young to get married we may, of course, meet a very significant other in the form of another sibling whose birth could mean companionship as well as new responsibilities and competition for mother’s attention. And since the 7th house rules enemies as well as partners, our progressed First Quarter could also mean having to face the school or office bully.

Having left home to start our heroic journey, we cross the boundaries of what is safe and familiar and enter a strange and dangerous topsy-turvy land where we are faced with ‘the other’ on which many hopes and fears can be projected. The First Quarter phase therefore means we have to deal with 7th and 8th house issues. Little Red Riding Hood ventures into the forest and meets a wolf. Is this a charming creature or is she in mortal danger? Heroes now find themselves abandoned by their guides or companions and must now face many dangers alone. Princesses marry a Beast or a Bluebeard or find themselves making promises to a frog. Their parents gone, these characters must now make their own judgments in their dealings with these creatures.

As previous examples have shown, not all progressed First Quarters are so dramatic. For many children it may quite simply be the next step towards independence, taken with confidence and encouraged by the parents. Some of us may even choose not to take the plunge, at least not at this stage. Though the young bird on the edge of the nest is either going to fly or die, we humans may decide that we are not quite ready yet. In that case the Full Moon and Last Quarter phases will definitely remind us of what we failed to do. However, for most of us who are approaching the Progressed First Quarter, it is time to take a deep breath and put trust in our wings.


Does the Bible Prohibit Space Travel?

Does Psalm 115:16 prohibit aerial or space travel, or does the dominion mandate of Genesis 1:28 extend into outer space?

I am somewhat frequent patron of your website, and I have found many fascinating perspectives on science and the biblical worldview. I have noticed—and I agree with—your assessment concerning what scripture says about life on other planets (or rather the lack thereof). What would your views be, however, on human colonization of space? As a space enthusiast myself, I have long been fascinated by this concept (I recently finished Gerard K. O’Neill’s The High Frontier). As a creationist, however, I have sometimes wondered if such an endeavor would be in accord with scripture. I have sometimes heard the entire space program itself criticized as un-biblical given passages such as Psalm 115 (“ The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord ’s, but the earth hath he given to the children of men ”) and the biblical dominion mandate being limited to the Earth. I believe Henry Morris himself once wrote an article on “The Bounds of the Dominion Mandate.” What are your thoughts?

– P.K., USA

Thank you for contacting Answers in Genesis. As we’ll see, the Psalm 115:16 passage really has nothing to do with space exploration, and nowhere else in Scripture is the concept spoken of in a negative light. We must remember that the Psalms are poetic literature and sometimes they conceptually portray people or angels in heaven worshipping God (see Psalms quoted below).

The heavens are not specifically designated in God ’s Word as man’s domain. However, I should also point out that God never says the heavens are for angels either, and yet we see numerous examples in Scripture of angels being in the heavens—and none of these instances are portrayed as wrong or negative. The essence of the passage is that heaven is where the throne of God is, and He alone controls heaven and the rest of the universe. Even if the Hebrew word is extended to include the atmospheric and interstellar heavens (as it often does), this still does not mean that God is prohibiting men from flying in airplanes or rockets, but rather that He is in control of these places as well as earth.

The Bible simply does not go into much detail about whether or not mankind has been given dominion of space, but we can look at some relevant passages as we attempt to reach a conclusion. If the expanse (translated as firmament or vault in some English Bible versions) also includes the sun, moon, and stars—as Genesis 1:14–15 seem to imply—then it would follow that man would have been given dominion of outer space as well. In fact Psalm 8:6 states that mankind has been given dominion over the works of God’s hands. Why wouldn’t this include “ the moon and the stars ,” which are said to be “ the work of [God’s] fingers ” ( Psalm 8:3 ) a few verses earlier?

Part of the confusion about Psalm 115:16 is likely due to the fact that it was written in the form of antithetic parallelism. This is a very common poetic device in Hebrew, in which the first line of the couplet explains a concept and is followed by the second line that promotes a contrasting idea. In this verse, the truth that the heavens belong to God is contrasted with the idea that He has given earth to men.

Some common English translations render Psalm 115:16 this way:

  • King James Version (KJV): “ The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord ’s: but the earth hath he given to the children of men. ”
  • New King James Version (NKJV): “ The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord ’s But the earth He has given to the children of men. ”
  • New International Version (NIV): “ The highest heavens belong to the Lord , but the earth he has given to man. ”
  • New American Standard Bible (NASB): “ The heavens are the heavens of the Lord But the earth He has given to the sons of men. ”
  • Septuagint in English (LXXE): “ The heaven of heavens belongs to the Lord: but he has given the earth to the sons of men. ”
  • English Standard Version (ESV): “ The heavens are the Lord ’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man. ”

The Hebrew word translated as “heaven” and “heavens” in this passage is shamayim, and it actually occurs in the plural form back-to-back in this passage. A similar wording is found in Deuteronomy 10:14 1 Kings 8:27 2 Chronicles 2:6 6:18 Nehemiah 9:6 and Psalm 68:33 . These passages use the singular form (shameh) followed by the plural form (shamayim) and are translated as “the highest heaven” or “the heaven of heavens.”

The rendering of Psalm 115:16 in the KJV, NKJV, NIV, and LXXE seem to indicate that that the heaven in this passage refers to the heaven where God’s throne is, rather than the heavens of outer space. But even if this is understood to include outer space, it still does not specify that mankind is not to go there—it means that God rules over this realm. Remember that another passage says, “ The earth is the Lord ’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein ” ( Psalm 24:1 ). Also, Psalm 139:8 states, “ If I ascend into heaven, You are there if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there ” ( Psalm 139:8, NASB ). In these verses the earth is described as belonging to God , yet man is obviously allowed to be here (and we know from other verses that we have been given dominion over the earth). Also, if a man ascended into heaven, God would be there.

Numerous verses reveal that angels are and will be in the heavens, so we should not view this realm as being strictly reserved for God alone.

And the heavens will praise Your wonders, O Lord Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the saints. ( Psalm 89:5 )

Praise the Lord ! Praise the Lord from the heavens Praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels Praise Him, all His hosts! ( Psalm 148:1–2 )

Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with You. ( Zechariah 14:5 )

“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” ( Matthew 18:10 )

“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.” ( Matthew 22:30 )

“And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” ( Matthew 24:31 )

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” ( Matthew 24:36 )

Finally, in Genesis 1:28 we read that God blessed Adam and Eve and then told them to “ be fruitful and multiply fill the earth and subdue it have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth. ” Since man was given dominion over the birds of the air, mankind would presumably have the right to “get airborne” to fully carry out this command. Notice that God did not say “you now have dominion,” or “you now have subdued.” This was a command that implied future action. I think it seems reasonable that God gave mankind the authority to develop aerial technology in order to be able to better study and have dominion over birds (as well as aqualungs and submersibles for studying and having dominion over sea life).

We can infer from these truths that God would allow and approve of humans developing space-travel as a means of studying the earth, moon, and other celestial bodies from a large-scale perspective.

Perhaps Psalm 8 would be the best text to support this point.

O Lord , our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens!

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen—
even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
that pass through the paths of the seas.

O Lord , our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth!


Cruithne Close Up

So Cruithne is our second moon. What’s it like there? Well, we don’t really know. It’s only about five kilometers across, which is not dissimilar to the dimensions of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which is currently playing host to the Rosetta orbiter and the Philae lander.

The surface gravity of 67P is very weak – walking at a spirited pace is probably enough to send you strolling into the wider cosmos. This is why it was so crucial that Philae was able to use its harpoons to tether itself to the surface, and why their failure meant that the lander bounced so far away from its landing site.

Given that Cruithne isn’t much more to us at this point than a few blurry pixels on an image, it’s safe to say that it sits firmly in the middling size range for non-planetary bodies in the solar system, and any human or machine explorers would face similar challenges as Rosetta and Philae did on 67P.

If Cruithne struck the Earth, though, that would be an extinction-level event, similar to what is believed to have occurred at the end of the Cretaceous period. Luckily it’s not going to hit us anytime soon – its orbit is tilted out of the plane of the solar system, and astrophysicists have shown using simulations that while it can come quite close, it is extremely unlikely to hit us. The point where it is predicted to get closest is about 2,750 years away.

Cruithne is expected to undergo a rather close encounter with Venus in about 8,000 years, however. There’s a good chance that that will put paid to our erstwhile spare moon, flinging it out of harm’s way, and out of the Terran family.


We Might Have a New Mini-Moon Soon

Is it a new asteroid mini–moon or a human-made mini-moon? That’s the question about a small object approaching Earth, called 2020 SO. NASA’s Small Body Database predicts the object will captured by Earth’s gravity in October 2020 and temporarily be trapped in orbit.

But a few unusual characteristics of 2020 SO suggest it might not be a small asteroid, like the two previously known temporary mini-moons that have briefly orbited our planet. Instead, this new object might in fact be an old object from Earth — an old second stage rocket part from the Surveyor 2 lunar lander mission, launched in 1966.

A screenshot of object 2020 SO’s projected unusual orbit, on Orbit Simulator.

Mini-moons, or TCOs (Temporarily Captured Objects) have probably occurred more over history than we know, but only two have ever been confirmed: 2006 RH120, which hung out in Earth orbit from 2006 to 2007, and the one discovered earlier this year, 2020 CD3, in Earth orbit from 2018 to 2020. Those objects were definitely small space rocks.

But trajectory models of 2020 SO show it has an orbit very similar to Earth’s, and is approaching at a very low speed — approximately 1,880 miles per hour (3,025 km/h) or 0.84 km per second (.5 mi/sec). That is an extremely slow speed for an asteroid, even a chunk of rock that could have been ejected from the Moon. Also, the size of 2020 SO is estimated to be between 20 and 45 feet (6 to 14 meters), definitely comparable to the Centaur-D stage that was part of the Surveyor 2 mission, which is measured at approximately 41 feet or 12 meters.

Asteroid #2020SO is suspected of being the Surveyor 2 centaur rocket booster, launched on 20 September 1966. The Earth-like orbit and low relative velocity suggest a possible man-made object.

&mdash Kevin Heider (@kpheider) September 21, 2020

Calculations of the trajectory show the object orbits the Sun every 1.06 years (387 days). It should be captured by Earth temporarily from October 2020 to about May of 2021.

Amateur astronomer Kevin Heider said on Twitter that around the time of closest approach on December 1, 2020, 2020 SO will only brighten to about apparent magnitude 14.1, and would require a telescope with roughly a 150mm (6″) objective lens to see visually.

Astronomers at the Pan-STARRS1 telescope in Hawaii first spotted 2020 SO on September 17, 2020. They designated it as asteroid and added it as an Apollo asteroid in the JPL Small-Body Database. Apollo asteroids are a class of asteroids whose paths cross Earth’s orbit, and often have near-Earth encounters.

Asteroid 2020 SO may get captured by Earth from Oct 2020 – May 2021. Current nominal trajectory shows shows capture through L2, and escape through L1. Highly-chaotic path, so be prepared for lots of revisions as new observations come in. @renerpho @nrco0e https://t.co/h4JaG2rHEd pic.twitter.com/RfUaeLtEWq

&mdash Tony Dunn (@tony873004) September 20, 2020

In a message group for astronomers, it was noted that Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object Center at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory suggested the object might be the rocket booster of Surveyor 2. Another message indicated observations show it appears to be chaotically tumbling.

Surveyor 2 launched to the Moon on September 20, 1966. It was supposed to land on the Moon to do reconnaissance for the Apollo human mission to the Moon, but a mid-course correction failed when a thruster didn’t ignite, and NASA eventually lost contact with the spacecraft. The failure caused the spacecraft to tumble out of control and it ended up crashing on the Moon, near Copernicus crater.

Astronomers will be watching as this object is captured by Earth’s gravity, and hope to say definitively what 2020 SO actually is.


Other Astronomical Controversies . . .

Only a thin layer of dust covers the moon’s surface. However, this does not prove a young age for the moon. Before the Apollo lunar missions, a few scientists had predicted that a yards-thick layer of dust should have settled on the moon over billions of years.

Editor’s Note: During the 1960s and 1970s many creationists adopted the “moon dust” argument based on early calculations by some secular scientists, but more accurate information is now available.

Those predictions got a lot of press, yet further satellite measurements of dust in space indicated a much smaller rate of accumulation than previously assumed. This does not mean the moon is billions of years old modern scientists cannot know the rate of dust accumulation in the past or the amount of dust originally on the moon. Therefore moon dust cannot be used as an age indicator one way or the other.


June's Strawberry Moon is visible tonight - here's what time it will peak and full moon dates for 2021

Full moons illuminate the sky every month, with the next one due tonight - but why do they have different names?

Another full moon is set to grace the skies - the sixth of the year. Known as the Strawberry Moon, it will be visible tonight, just days after the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.

So named for the beginning of strawberry picking season, June's full moon is synonymous with warmer climes. But when and how can you see it?

Here we've compiled a complete guide to the Moon, Earth's only natural satellite and the largest and brightest object in our night sky, which has enchanted and inspired mankind for centuries.

From supermoon to blue moon, here's everything explained in one place.

When is the next full moon?

The next full moon, otherwise known as the Strawberry Moon, is set to grace our skies on June 24.

The next Strawberry Moon will not be visible for nearly a year.

How often does a full moon occur?

A full moon occurs every 29.5 days and happens when the Moon is completely illuminated by the Sun's rays. It occurs when the Earth is directly aligned between the Sun and the Moon.

While most years see 12 full moons, some years have 13. This means that some months will see two full moons, with the second known as a Blue Moon.

In 2020, 13 full moons graced our skies, with the second of two full moons in October named as the Blue Hunter's Moon.

Why do full moons have different names?

The early Native Americans didn't record time using months of the Julian or Gregorian calendar. Instead tribes gave each full moon a nickname to keep track of the seasons and lunar months.

Most of the names relate to an activity or an event that took place at the time in each location. However, it wasn't a uniform system and tribes tended to name and count moons differently. Some, for example, counted four seasons a year while others counted five. Others defined a year as 12 moons, while others said there were 13.

Colonial Americans adopted some of the moon names and applied them to their own calendar system which is why they're still in existence today, according to the Farmer’s Almanac.

June: Strawberry Moon

This full moon is named after the beginning of the strawberry picking season. It is also known as Rose Moon or Hot Moon, commemorating the start of the summer's warm weather.

It appears in the same month as the summer solstice, the longest day of the year (June 21), in which we can enjoy 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight.

When? June 24. The Strawberry Moon is expected to reach its peak at 7.39 BST tonight.

July: Thunder Moon

Named due to the prevalence of summer thunder storms. It's otherwise known as the Full Buck Moon because at this time of the year a buck's antlers are fully grown.

In 2019, the Thunder Moon was extra special because not only did it coincide with the partial lunar eclipse, it also fell on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

When? July 24

August: Sturgeon Moon

Tribes in North America typically caught Sturgeon around this time, but it is also when grain and corn were gathered so is sometimes referred to as Grain Moon.

This full moon appears in the same month as the Perseid meteor shower, which peaks on August 12 and 13, and this year, a blue moon (the third full moon in a season with four full moon), will also take place on August 22.

When? August 22

September: Harvest Moon

The Harvest Moon is the name given to the first full moon that takes place closest to the Autumn equinox, which this year falls on September 22.

It was during September that most of the crops were harvested ahead of the autumn and this moon would give light to farmers so they could carry on working longer in the evening. Some tribes also called it the Barley Moon, the Full Corn Moon or Fruit Moon.

When? September 21

October: Hunter's Moon

As people planned ahead for the cold months ahead, October's full moon came to signify the ideal time for hunting game, which were becoming fatter from eating falling grains. This full moon is also known as the Travel Moon and the Dying Grass Moon.

When? October 20

November: Beaver Moon

Beavers typically start building their winter dams around now, leading to this full moon moniker. It is also known as the Frost Moon as winter frosts historically began to take their toll during this time.

In 2021, the Beaver Moon will coincide with a partial lunar eclipse, otherwise known as a Half Blood Moon.

When? November 19

December: Cold Moon

Nights are long and dark and winter's grip tightens, hence this full moon's name. Falling in the festive season, it's also referred to as Moon before Yule and Long Nights Moon.

When? December 19

Past 2021 full moons

January: Wolf Moon

This full moon was named because villagers used to hear packs of wolves howling in hunger around this time of the year. It's also known as the Old Moon, Ice Moon and Snow Moon, although the latter is usually associated with February's full moon.

When? January 28

February: Snow Moon

The Snow Moon is named after the cold white stuff because historically it's always been the snowiest month in America. It's also traditionally referred to as the Hunger Moon, because hunting was very difficult in snowy conditions.

When? February 27

March: Worm Moon

As temperatures warm, earthworm casts begin to appear and birds begin finding food. It also has multiple other names including the Sap Moon, Crow Moon and Crust Moon, while its Anglo Saxon name is the Lenten Moon.

The Worm Moon graces our skies in the same month as the Spring Equinox, which fell on March 20 this year.

This full moon is important because it is used to fix the date of Easter, which is always the Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. This year's Worm Moon is the first full moon to appear after the spring equinox, which means Easter Sunday fell one week later, on Sunday April 4.

When? March 28

April: Pink Moon

April's full moon is known as the Pink Moon, but don't be fooled into thinking it will turn pink. It's actually named after pink wildflowers, which appear in North America in early spring.

It is also known as the Egg Moon, due to spring egg-laying season. Some coastal tribes referred to it as Fish Moon because it appeared at the same time as the shad swimming upstream.

The Pink Moon appears during the same month as the Lyrid meteor shower and in 2021, it was also the first super full moon of the year.

When? April 27

May: Flower Moon

Spring has officially sprung by the time May arrives, and flowers and colourful blooms dot the landscape.

This full moon is also known as Corn Planting Moon, as crops are sown in time for harvest, or Milk Moon, as May was previously known as the "Month of Three Milkings".

In 2021, it appeared during the same month as a micro new moon, which took place on May 11 and saw the new moon at its furthest point from the Earth during its orbit.

This year's Flower Moon was also a super full moon, appearing up to 30 per cent brighter and 14 per cent bigger to the human eye.

When? May 26

Blood Supermoon

A blood supermoon is a lunar eclipse which occurs during a full moon. This year, it appeared bigger and brighter, and for a number of minutes, appeared red on the same evening as the Flower Moon.

An eclipse occurs when the Earth obscures the Moon from the Sun. However, for a blood moon, the satellite is only briefly obscured from the Sun by the Earth's shadow, meaning that light filters through the Earth's atmosphere, allowing only the long wavelengths, red and orange, to travel through and reflect from the Moon's surface back to Earth.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon is only visible from certain parts of the world, with NASA saying that those in Hawaii having the best view. Those in California and the Pacific Northwest will also be able to admire it at around 2:45am PST.

For those in the UK, it was not possible to see the Super Flower Bloodmoon in the sky. However, there were multiple live streams across YouTube broadcasting the event from 9:45am GMT.

Total lunar eclipses

A total lunar eclipse, otherwise known as a 'blood moon', occurs when the Moon moves into the Earth’s shadow. At the distance of the Moon, this shadow appears like the bull’s eye at the centre of a dartboard.

The umbral shadow slowly creeps across the Moon’s disc until it engulfs it completely. You might think the Moon would disappear from view at this point but this is typically not the case. The Earth’s atmosphere acts like a lens, refracting or bending the Sun's red light to infill the otherwise dark umbra. This results in the Moon's usual bright white hue transforming into a deep blood orange.

Space fans will remember that the last total lunar eclipse graced our skies on January 21, 2019. In total the celestial spectacle - which was also a full moon and a supermoon - lasted five hours, 11 minutes and 33 seconds, with its maximum totality peaking at 5:12am.

While the next total lunar eclipse is not set to take place in the UK until May 16, 2022, a partial lunar eclipse will grace our skies on November 19, 2021.

This type of eclipse takes place when the Earth moves between the Sun and the full moon, but they do not precisely form a straight line. If weather conditions are in our favour, half of the moon will appear in the sky with reddish glow.

Once in a blue moon

Does this well-known phrase have anything to do with the Moon? Well, yes it does. We use it to refer to something happening very rarely and a blue moon is a rare occurrence.

A monthly blue moon is the name given to a second full moon that occurs in a single calendar month and this typically occurs only once every two to three years. In 2020, the Hunter's Moon on October 31 was a blue moon because it is the second full moon to occur in October.

A seasonal blue moon describes the third of four full moons to occur in an astronomical season. In 2021, the Sturgeon Moon on August 22, will be a seasonal blue moon.

There's lots of other moons, too - how many do you know?

Full moon: We all know what these are. They come around every month and light up the sky at night.

New moon: Sometimes known as the invisible phase, as it generally can't be seen in the sky. It's when the Sun and Moon are aligned, with the Sun and Earth on opposite sides of the Moon. As a result, the side of the Moon that faces the Earth is left in complete darkness.

Black moon: Most experts agree that this refers to the second new moon in a calendar month, while some use the term to describe the third new moon in a season of four new moons. The last black moon took place on August 19, 2020.

Blood moon: Also known as a total lunar eclipse. It's when the shadow of Earth casts a reddish glow on the moon, the result of a rare combination of an eclipse with the closest full moon of the year. There was one in the UK in January 2019, with the next one set to be visible over South America, North America and parts of Europe and Africa on May 16, 2022. Space fans in the UK won't be able to see every phase of this eclipse, but should be able to see it at totality when the Moon appears with a reddish-orange glow.

What is a supermoon?

Ever looked up at the night sky to see a full moon so close you could almost touch it? Well you've probably spotted a supermoon.

The impressive sight happens when a full moon is at the point in its orbit that brings it closest to Earth. To us Earth-lings, it appears up to 30 per cent brighter and 14 per cent bigger.

Supermoon is not an astrological term though. It's scientific name is actually Perigee Full Moon, but supermoon is more catchy and is used by the media to describe our celestial neighbour when it gets up close.

Astrologer Richard Nolle first came up with the term supermoon and he defined it as "… a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90 per cent of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit", according to earthsky.org.

How many supermoons are there in 2021?

Two super full moons are set to grace our skies in 2021. One appeared on April 27, with the next supermoon appearing on May 26.

Two super new moons will also take place on November 4 and December 4, but we won't be able to see these lunar events as new moons are invisible to the naked eye.

What do I look for?

Head outside at sunset when the Moon is closest to the horizon and marvel at its size. As well as being closer and brighter, the Moon (clouds permitting) should also look orange and red in colour.

Why? Well, as moonlight passes through the thicker section of the atmosphere, light particles at the red end of the spectrum don't scatter as easily as light at the blue end of the spectrum.

So when the Moon looks red, you're just looking at red light that wasn't scattered. As the Moon gets higher in the sky, it returns to its normal white/yellow colour.

Will the tides be larger?

Yes. When full or new moons are especially close to Earth, it leads to higher tides. Tides are governed by the gravitational pull of the Moon and, to a lesser extent, the Sun. Because the Sun and Moon go through different alignments, this affects the size of the tides.

Tell me more about the Moon

  • The Moon is 4.6 billion years old and was formed between 30-50 million years after the solar system.
  • It is smaller than Earth - about the same size as Pluto in fact.
  • Its surface area is less than the surface area of Asia - about 14.6 million square miles according to space.com
  • Gravity on the Moon is only 1/6 of that found on Earth.
  • The Moon is not round, but is egg-shaped with the large end pointed towards Earth.
  • It would take 135 days to drive by car to the Moon at 70 mph (or nine years to walk).
  • The Moon has "moonquakes" caused by the gravitational pull of Earth.
  • Experts believe the Moon has a molten core, just like Earth.

How was the Moon formed?

Man on the Moon

Only 12 people have ever walked on the Moon and they were all American men, including (most famously) Neil Armstrong who was the first in 1969 on the Apollo 11 mission.

The last time mankind sent someone to the Moon was in 1972 when Gene Cernan visited on the Apollo 17 mission.

Although Armstrong was the first man to walk on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin was the first man to urinate there. While millions watched the Moon Landing on live television, Aldrin was forced to go in a tube fitted inside his space suit.

When the astronauts took off their helmets after their moonwalk, they noticed a strong smell, which Armstrong described as “wet ashes in a fireplace” and Aldrin as “spent gunpowder”. It was the smell of moon-dust brought in on their boots.

The mineral, armalcolite, discovered during the first moon landing and later found at various locations on Earth, was named after the three Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

An estimated 600 million people watched the Apollo 11 landing live on television, a world record until 750 million people watched the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.

One of President Nixon’s speechwriters had prepared an address entitled: “In Event of Moon Disaster”. It began: “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay to rest in peace.” If the launch from the Moon had failed, Houston was to close down communications and leave Armstrong and Aldrin to their death.