Near-Earth orbiting object 2020 SO, informally dubbed by astronomers "the planet's second moon", is expected to pass at a relatively close distance to our planet on 2 February prior to winging away into space, as our Earth’s gravity will ultimately ease off its hold on the object, according to EarthSky. Some time in March 2021, the space trash will adopt instead a solar orbit.
Astronomers first noticed 2020 SO in September 2020, taking note of the unusually low speed and trajectory indicated by orbit models.
The models showed at the time that Earth would briefly grasp the object and hold it in orbit as if it were a new mini-moon. On 8 November, 2020 SO was indeed photographed by telescopes going around our planet.
Follow-up analysis on its motion, along with a very close approach (just 30,000 miles, 50,000 km or 0.13 lunar-distances) on 1 December, 2020, led NASA to confirm that the object is a relic from the dawn of the Space Age; the remains of a 1960s Surveyor rocket booster used in American moon missions.
The Virtual Telescope Project in Rome will provide an online farewell to the object on the night of 1 February, for all interested stargazers and lovers of astronomy.