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Sept. 20, 2002: Something odd is circling our planet. It's small, perhaps only 60-ft long, and rotates once every minute or so. Amateur astronomer Bill Yeung first spotted the 16th magnitude speck of light on Sept. 3rd in the constellation Pisces. He named it J002E3. Automated asteroid surveys scan the skies every few weeks, yet there was no sign of Yeung's object earlier this year. "It must have entered Earth orbit recently," says Paul Chodas of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program at JPL. "But it doesn't match any recently-launched spacecraft."
In other words, it's a mystery.
Could it be an alien spaceship? "If it is," says Chodas, "the aliens aren't good pilots. J002E3 is in a chaotic orbit. It loops around Earth once every 48 days or so, coming as close to our planet as the Moon and ranging as far away as two lunar distances." There's no evidence that the speck is moving under its own power. The orbit is constantly changing because of gravitational perturbations by the Sun and Moon.
It was a good idea, except for the paint.