PUBLISHED: 02:51, Mon, Oct 12, 2020 | UPDATED: 02:51, Mon, Oct 12, 2020
Paul Choda, NASA’s leading asteroid expert, has claimed a newly discovered object approaching the Earth is actually an old rocket from a failed lunar mission. Mr Chodas pointed to the way the beloved debris is orbiting the Sun, and said it cannot be a space rock because of its unique pathway around the star. It comes after speculation earlier this month the object would become a new “mini-moon” and join other small asteroids in getting trapped in our planet’s orbit.
The object, known as the asteroid 2020 SO, was added to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Centre’s tally of asteroids last month, after it was spotted from a telescope in Hawaii.
Mr Chodas believes 2020 SO is actually the Centaur upper rocket stage that propelled NASA’s Surveyor 2 lander to the moon.
The rocket took flight in 1966, 54 years ago, and has remained in space as floating debris.
Surveyor 2 ended up crashing on the surface of the moon after one of its thrusters failed to fire up approach the rock.
READ MORE: Earth set to get a new mini-moon - but astronomers are confused by its origin
Space news: A NASA expert has claimed 2020 SO is an old rocket (Image: Getty)
Space news: In 1966, NASA launched a Surveyor 2 to the moon, with the debris remaining in space (Image: PA)
Mr Chodas was excited about his discovery, adding he was “pretty jazzed” about his findings about 2020 SO.
He added: "It's been a hobby of mine to find one of these and draw such a link, and I've been doing it for decades now."
The asteroid expert said the object raised his suspicion when he noticed it making a near-circular orbit around the Sun, similar to our own planet’s.
Mr Chodas’ claimed the flight path around the star was “flag number one” the object may not be an asteroid.
Space news: The object is moving towards slowly, and is taking a strange flight path (Image: Twitter / @tony873004)
Space news: Paul Choda believes the