The asteroid that passed Earth was actually part of a rocket

The asteroid that passed Earth was actually part of a rocket

In retrospect, the meeting was enough to give me a cold sweat… On Tuesday, the Atlas Warning System, located in Chile, was triggered. Surveillance, its objective detection Meteors are dangerous near EarthCorrect: An unknown object is moving near our planet.

The next day, three other telescopes based in Chile, South Africa and the US confirmed its existence, and the Minor Planets Center (MBC), the organization responsible for cataloging the smallest objects in the Solar System, gave it a tentative name: 2022 UQ1.

Size of Chelyabinsk Fireball?

Orbital calculations published by the American and European space agencies were not very reassuring: the threatening intrusion was two days before the warning! So last Sunday, around 9am (Paris time), 2022 UQ1 passed overhead only about 2700 km! According to the European agency ESA, the alleged asteroid is 17 meters long.

That’s the size of one that fell in Russia’s Chelyabinsk region in 2013. A thousand people were injured, mainly by shards of glass caused by the sonic boom of the rotting torch, and a few dozen remained in area hospitals. The unexpected passing of 2022 UQ1 has caused quite a stir on social networks and special discussion threads.

“already arrived”

However, after checking, amateur astronomer Bill Gray and NASA physicist David Farnocchia explained on Wednesday that this was a mistake. The so-called space rock is actually part of a submersible rocket: the Centaur stage of the launcher, which was deployed on October 16, 2021. Lucy study. Ironically, this ship’s mission is precisely to observe asteroids!

The confusion is not surprising. “This has happened many times before. Sometimes, we realize it years later,” explains Patrick Michael, an astrophysicist at the Côte d’Azur (OCA) Observatory. . But the researchers who follow these things are very smart, they check every time. »

In a forum, Bill Gray said the Centaur rocket stage, which is 13 meters long and 3 meters in diameter, will reappear a year after Lucy’s launch. Let’s calm down! After this original “birthday wish,” 2022 UQ1 —or rather Centaur—wasn’t ready to visit us again.

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