Feeds

Approaching space object 'artificial, not asteroid' says NASA

Too small for a proper mothership at ~10m, though

The next step in data security

NASA boffins report that an unknown object approaching the Earth from deep space is almost certainly artificial in origin rather than being an asteroid.

NASA JPL graphic depicting the 2010 visit of object 2010 KQ.

Not actually an asteroid, according to NASA, but artificial.

Object 2010 KQ was detected by the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona earlier this month, and subsequently tracked by NASA's asteroid-watching service, the Near-Earth Object Program headquartered at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

According to the NASA experts:

Observations by astronomer S J Bus, using the NASA-sponsored Infrared Telescope Facility in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, indicate that 2010 KQ's spectral characteristics do not match any of the known asteroid types, and the object's absolute magnitude (28.9) suggests it is only a few meters in size.

The mysterious artificial object has apparently made a close pass by the Earth, coming in almost to the distance of the Moon's orbit, and is now headed away again into the interplanetary void. The object has used no propulsion during the time NASA has had it under observation. However the spacewatch boffins believe that it must have moved under its own power at some point, given its position and velocity.

"The orbit of this object is very similar to that of the Earth, and one would not expect a [naturally occurring] object to remain in this type of orbit for very long," said Paul Chodas, a brainbox at JPL.

The experts believe that the object must be a spacecraft, or more accurately part of one - sadly not an alien visitor, though. Rather it's likely to be a booster stage from an interplanetary mission of the past, now drifting back in to Earth and out again. The next visit will probably be 2036, at which time there's a small chance that 2010 KQ will crash into the atmosphere and burn up. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.