ASTRONOMERS are perplexed by a mysterious piece of space junk orbiting the Earth in an unusual way.
It is believed that the piece of debris, located about 370 miles from the surface of the Earth, is what is known as an "empty trash bag object."
It is believed to be a remnant of a rocket launch – but experts can not figure out which spacecraft it came from.
The Empty Garbage Bag Objects – also known as ETBOs – often orbit erratically, given their size and shape.
They can stretch for several meters, but tend to be incredibly light – with this object weighing less than a pound.
Scientists say that while they can not be sure what the object is, it is likely to be just a piece of lightweight material, such as a sheet of metal left over from a space mission.
But that caused a frenzy last week when on Friday it was detected by the Asteroid Terrestrial Impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) telescope in Haleakala, Hawaii.
The object was later analyzed by experts from the Observatories of the Northolt Branch in London – who were able to judge it as a probable ETBO.
Astronomers have dubbed the A10bMLz object and said it is "extremely light" – but also several meters long.
In a Facebook posting, the Northolt Branch Observatories explained: "This suggests what is known as the & # 39; empty object of the garbage bag & # 39 ;.
"A piece of lightweight material (probably metallic foil) left over from a rocket launch.
"It's still not clear when the A10bMLz was released."
At the moment, we have no idea of the origin of this object
Astronomers became more confused after realizing that the object was orbiting in the opposite direction than it should be.
A10bMLz was moving in a "retrograde" way, the scientists said – rather than the "prograde" fashion from the West to the East.
Northolt Branch Observatories added: "The orbit is highly elliptical, with a perigee only 600 km above the surface of the Earth and a apogee 1.4 times as far away as the Moon."
This huge orbit – the first of its kind for an ETBO – is making it even harder to pinpoint the origin of the object.
Space Trash: What is an Empty Trash Bag?
The result of thousands of space missions, the Empty Trash Bag Objects makes up many of the estimated 170 million pieces of scrap that orbit Earth.
Empty Empty Bag Objects, or ETBOs, are so named because of their unpredictability.
Like a plastic bag being carried by the wind, ETBOs can orbit uncontrollably.
Often light but large in size, objects can be affected by the sun's radiation and pushed in different directions.
They tend to orbit relatively close to Earth.
But the A10bMLz is unique because an ETBO with such a large orbit has never been seen.
At its furthest point from Earth, the object is 1.4 times the distance to the moon.
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The Pluto project, which makes planetary software, said: "At the moment, we have no idea of the origin of this object.
"This is mainly because their past trajectory is really uncertain.
"As with an empty trash bag blowing in the street, it can zigzag in unpredictable ways."
The pressure of the Sun's radiation is enough to push the light object away in strange directions.
It may even burn in the Earth's atmosphere in a matter of months before boffins can discover where it came from, the Northolt Branch Observatories observed.
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