Earth has a new satellite
- for a while, anyway. In November of 1969, Apollo 12 blasted off for
the Moon with crewmembers Alan Beam, Pete Conrad and Richard Gordon.
It left behind, among other things, the 3rd stage of the Saturn V rocket
that boosted it into space. In 1971, that 3rd stage left the Earth's
orbit to position itself in a Lagrangian point orbit (a place where
the Earth's and Sun's gravitational attraction is nearly equal), where
it remained until April of 2002. Canadian amateur astronomer Bill Yeung
spotted the new satellite in September of that year and after some help
from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, confirmed it's identity using
spectral techniques that recognized the titanium oxide paint on the
object's surface. Alas, the 3rd stage will leave our orbit again in
June of 2003, and probably won't return until the mid-2040s. I'll be
in my 80s then - scary!