Earth is going to destroy the second moon permanently

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The second moon of Earth will approach the planet next week before drifting off into space, never to be seen again.

“What second moon,” you ask? It”s what astronomers are calling the 2020 SO – a small object that will enter Earth’s orbit in September 2020 about halfway between our planet and the moon. Transient satellites like these are known as mini-moons, although in this case it’s a bit misleading to call it a moon; in December 2020, NASA researchers learned that the object wasn’t a space rock at all, but the remains of a 1960s rocket booster involved in the U.S. Surveyor lunar missions.

This non-moon Minimoon came closest to Earth on Dec. 1 (one day before NASA identified it as the long-lost booster), but it’s coming back for another lap of honor, according to EarthSky.org. Minimoon 2020 SO will approach Earth on Tuesday (Feb. 2) at a distance of about 220,000 kilometers (140,000 miles), or 58% of the distance between Earth and the Moon.

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After that, the booster will drift off and leave Earth’s orbit altogether in March 2021, according to EarthSky. After that, the former mini-moon will be just another object orbiting the sun. The Virtual Telescope Project in Rome will host an online farewell to the object the night of Feb. 1.

NASA has found that the object has come close to Earth several times over the decades and even came relatively close in 1966 – the year the agency launched its Surveyor 2 lunar probe on the back of a Centaur rocket. That gave scientists the first big clue that 2020 SO was man-made; they confirmed it after comparing the object’s chemical composition to that of another rocket booster that has been in orbit since 1971.

Good luck, Minimoon 2020 SO. We built you. We let you down. And now you’re letting us down.

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