The strange story of 2020 SO: How an asteroid turned into rocket junk and the NASA scientist who figured it out

As soon as he saw the data, Paul Chodas knew something was strange about the near-Earth object that had been designated 2020 SO.

It should have been just another of the tens of thousands of space rocks that astronomers have spotted breezing through our neighborhood in space. This solar system rubble is mostly harmless, but scientists identify and track all they can in case an object appears to be on a collision course with Earth. As head of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, Chodas evaluates observations of these objects every day.

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