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It may not be a rocket launch scheduled to hit the moon on March 4 SpaceX After all.
The astronomer credited with discovering the impending collision, Bill Gray, announced Saturday (February 12) that he made a mistake in identifying the rocket as an old Falcon 9 rocket stage that helped. The launch of the Climate Observatory satellite into deep space in 2015.
Alternatively, Gray suggests the stage could be part of the Long March 3C rocket that launched a rocket from the Moon to China Chang’e 5-T1 mission In October 2014. This spacecraft was a precursor to Chang’e 5mission 2020 that returned a robotic specimen to the moon.)
Gray runs Project Pluto Software used to track and position near-Earth objects Correction Notice on his website on Saturday (February 12) after receiving a note from John Giorgini, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“he [Giorgini] He wrote to Gray on Saturday morning explaining that the DSCOVR spacecraft’s trajectory did not come particularly close to the Moon, and so it would be a bit strange if the second phase veered close to the Moon,” Eric Berger wrote in Ars Technicawho reported the stray reinforcement three weeks ago, on Saturday.
The rocket stage is still expected to start, regardless of its origin Hit the far side of the moon On March 4, at 7:25 AM EDT (1225 GMT), it will not be visible from Earth. However, Gray explained on his website why he believed he had made an identification error.
“Based on John’s email, I rummaged through my email archives to remind myself why I had originally identified the item as a DSCOVR stage in the first place, seven years ago. I did this excavation with complete confidence that it would prove that the object was , in fact, the second phase of DSCOVR,” Gray Books in updating it.
Gray wrote that he was using data from the Catalina Sky Survey, which usually tracks near-Earth objects, to assess threats to Earth. Catalina found an object about a month after DSCOVR was launched, designated WE0913A and initially thought to be a natural organism.
“Shortly afterwards, an astronomer in Brazil noticed on a newsgroup that the object was orbiting the Earth, not the Sun, suggesting that it might be a man-made object,” Gray said. After some conversations with the astronomer, Gray and other researchers found that WE0913A passed the moon two days after DSCOVR launched.
“I and others have come to accept the second stage association [of Falcon 9] properly. The object was about the brightness we would expect, appeared at the expected time and moved in a reasonable orbit,” Gray continued, but noted that the evidence was “situational” and not entirely conclusive.
“In hindsight,” Gray continued, “I should have noticed some strange things about WE0913A’s orbit. Assuming there were no maneuvers, it would have been in a somewhat strange orbit around Earth before hovering over the moon. At its highest point, it would be Soon the Moon’s orbit; at its lowest point (perigee), about a third of that distance. I had expected perigee to be near the surface of the Earth. Perigee seemed quite high.”
At first Gray thought these differences might be due to fuel leakage, which is very common on older rocket stages. However, such a DISCOVR course change would have required an extraordinary amount of fuel, although it was still possible.
“I didn’t have a DSCOVR track at the time, and flying over the moon seemed perfectly reasonable. [as] Spacecraft often use lunar flybys to adjust their orbits,” Gray said. But after receiving the email, he searched the records for an object launched not long before March 2015, into “high orbit passing through the moon.” Spacecraft Verification.
That led him to Chang’e 5 T1; The evidence is still not entirely conclusive and is based on its predicted orbit run through time, but additional confidence comes from Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who typically tracks space objects and space junk.
McDowell sent the orbital elements to cubesat amateur radio Which got a “share the ride” with the booster, a very close match,” Gray wrote, “in a sense, this remains a circumstance proof.” But I will take that as somewhat convincing evidence.”