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Surveyor 2 Centaur stage

Image

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About this observation
Observer
Nick James
Time of observation
30/11/2020 - 23:01
Object
2020 SO
Observing location
Chelmsford, UK
Equipment
Celestron HD11 + FLI6303
Exposure
60s

The trail in the centre of this image is the Centaur upper stage of the Atlas Centaur that launched Surveyor 2 in 1966. The spacecraft itself crashed into the Moon due to a thruster failure but the Centaur escaped the Earth-Moon system and headed off round the Sun. It was rediscovered by PanSTARRS on 2020 September 17 and designated 2020 SO when it was thought to be a natural object. It is currently in an unstable Earth orbit and makes its closest tomorrow morning (Dec 1). At the time this image was taken it was 96000 km away and moving at 4 arcsecs/second. It is tumbling and flashing with a period of around 9s. There is a timelapse here made up of 5s exposures.

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