Man-Made Object Spotted Orbiting the Sun

by Nancy Atkinson on May 26, 2010

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2010 KQ - a man-made object spotted orbiting the sun. Credit: Richard Miles, BAA via the Las Cumbres Observatory.

My dotAstronomy pal Edward Gomez from the Las Cumbres Observatory is reporting that a man-made object has been spotted orbiting the sun. First noticed in the Catalina Sky Survey on May 16, it was thought to be an asteroid, but then, because of its very circular and low-inclined orbit, Richard Miles, using the Faulkes Telescope North realized it could be man-made. Now dubbed 2010 KQ, it orbits the Sun every 1.04 years, and on May 21 it came within 1.28 lunar-distances of the Earth. Miles captured this image of the object, above, and spectral analysis of 2010 KQ is consistent with UV-aged titanium dioxide paint. What could it be?

Gomez says Miles believes it could be the 4th stage of a Russian Proton rocket which launched the Luna 23 lunar sample return attempt, which was launched on October 28, 1974 and reached lunar orbit in November of that year.

Read more about it, including info on how you could possibly track the object as well, on Edward’s blog. Hopefully we’ll hear more about Miles’ observations, too.

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Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

katesisco May 27, 2010 at 4:29 AM

Just outside our Moon, approx year orbit–sounds like us, With better lensing more of these should be visible & fun to track.

Aqua May 27, 2010 at 7:29 AM

Obviously not a very bright object.. I wonder what magnitude this image indicates? Since they used a 2 meter telescope, no doubt coupled with a cooled (probably) CCD camera… its amazing this object was seen at all! My ‘guesstimate’ would be in the low Mag. 20′s range somewhere?

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