An unknown mass that will buzz past earth in the early hours of December 1 (tomorrow) has NASA scientists a tad confused. As a result, this mysterious object has been given the moniker "2020 SO" by those scientists. Also by "buzz" we mean come within between 31,000-32,000 miles of this planet.
No need to freak.
The object was first found back in September by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System in Hawaii. At first it was thought to be an asteroid stretching about 15-to-33 feet in length. That guess has since been scrapped, with NASA scientists at the organization's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) putting forth the belief that it's neither an asteroid nor a "natural body."
The current belief, at least the one held by CNEOS director Paul Chodas, is that the thing is a rocket booster from a failed attempt to explore the moon (Surveyor 2) that was launched in September 1966. Chodas' educated guess is based upon calculations that reverse-tracked the object's origin, which is believed to have come from Earth.
"One of the possible paths for 2020 SO brought the object very close to Earth and the Moon in late September 1966," he said earlier this month. "It was like a eureka moment when a quick check of launch dates for lunar missions showed a match with the Surveyor 2 mission."
That mission concluded with a crash on the moon, which sent a Centaur rocket booster into space.
Scientists may get a better read on the object when it passes Earth at 3:50 a.m. Tuesday morning. If you want to wake up to watch it (live your life however you want) the fly-by will be livestreamed.