Astronomers say it’s not a SpaceX Falcon 9 that’s about to hit the moon after all — but it could be a Chinese Long March 3C rocket launched in 2014.
As reported widely about three weeks ago, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket It will be on a collision course with the moonAfter spending nearly seven years wandering in space.
Observers believe that the rocket – with a mass of about four tons – should hit the moon quickly 2.58 km/s in a matter of weeks.
but according to space.comAnd Bill GrayNow announced, the astronomer responsible for detecting the impending collision They made a mistake By locating the body on a collision course as part of the Falcon 9 rocket that helped launch the satellite DSCOVR Deep Climate Observatory 2015.
Gray suggests, after all, that the object in question may in fact be part of the Chinese missile. Long March 3C that launched the Chang’e 5-T1 mission On her flight to the moon in October 2014.
This spacecraft was the predecessor of Chang’e 5, the Chinese mission that in 2020 went to the moon and Returned lunar soil samples Collected by you rover robotic.
Gray, who runs the program for Project Pluto Used to locate near-Earth objects, published this week a Correction note On your website, after receiving a note from John Giorginian engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Giorgini wrote to Gray on February 12, explaining that the DSCOVR track “He was not particularly close to the moonAnd so it would be a bit strange if the second stage of the missile he launched had moved far enough to hit him.”
Encouraged by John’s email, You searched my files An email address to remind me because the item was originally identified as Phase 2 of DSCOVR seven years ago. I conducted this research confident that it would establish that the object was, in fact, the second stage of DSCOVR,” Gray wrote.
Use gray data from Catalina Sky SurveyDesign Near-Earth Object Monitoring Program which tracks near-Earth objects to assess threats to our planet.
About a month after DSCOVR was released, CSS found a certain body WE0913Awhich was initially thought to be a natural being.
Soon, the Brazilian astronomer noticed that The object was in orbit The Earth, not the Sun, which suggests it could be a man-made object,” Gray explains.
After talking to the astronomer for some time, Gray and other researchers discovered that WE0913A passed by the moon Two days after the launch of DSCOVR.
Gray adds: “The other investigators and I then hypothesized that the object would be the second stage of Falcon 9. The object had the glow we were expecting, and it appeared at the expected timemoving in a reasonable orbit, but the evidence was circumstantial and not entirely conclusive.”
In hindsight, Gray says he should have noticed”some strange things“Above the orbit of WE0913A.” In your The highest point It will be close to the orbit of the moon, at its limits lowest point (Pigee point), about a third of that distance. was expected to rock bottom It was close to the ground. It seemed too long.”
At first, Gray thought these differences might be due to fuel leaks, which are very common in rocket stages after a few years in space. However, such a change in the DISCOVR pathway would have required a Unusual amount of fuelalthough it is still possible.
After receiving the email from Giorgini, and deeming that WE0913A could not be a Falcon 9 after all, Gray searched for records of an object launched shortly before March 2015, at “High orbit that passed near the moon“- which can a few spacecraft.
This is, The suspect is now Chang’e 5 T1. The evidence is not conclusive yet, and is based only on the predicted Chang’e 5 T1 orbit.
But, in fact, the number of bodies that satisfy all the properties that you put in The list of suspects is not that big. Whatever the body in question is… it’s on its way to crashing into the moon.
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