SpaceX rocket was mistaken for the second Moon

Object 2024 JV8, which was considered a temporary moon of the Earth, surprised astronomers. The investigation revealed that in reality it represents the second stage of a SpaceX rocket.

Deceptive appearance

2024 JV8 was discovered on May 8, 2024, and classified as an asteroid. After analyzing its trajectory, astrophysicist and journalist Adrien Coffinet came to the conclusion that it was a temporary moon of the Earth. 

However, it soon became clear that Coffinet was mistaken. After analyzing the orbit of the object, the participants of the monitoring group of minor planets came to the conclusion that it was not a second moon. In fact, the object was the upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, which was used to launch the Odysseus probe in February 2024.

Curiously, due to the incorrect classification of the rocket as an asteroid, NASA’s Sentinel monitoring system even managed to calculate the probability of its collision with Earth in the future. According to available data, it is one in twenty-nine.

What are quasi-moons?

Temporary moons (or quasi-moons) are objects that are in 1:1 orbital resonance with the planet. This allows them to stay close to it for many orbital periods.

Asteroid Kamoalev in the artist’s impression. Source: Addy Graham/University of Arizona

Today, astronomers know about the existence of seven quasi-moons of the Earth. The most famous of them is the asteroid Kamoalev, presumably a fragment knocked out from the surface of the Moon during the fall of a large asteroid (according to one version, we are talking about a collision that gave rise to the Bruno crater). It is the main target of the Chinese Tianwen-2 mission, scheduled to launch in 2025. Tianwen-2 will have to take a sample of Kamoalev’s soil, after which it will be returned to Earth.

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