6Q0B44E was first observed by Catalina Sky Survey researchers at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona on 28 August 2006. The sighting was confirmed the next day by observations at the Siding Spring Survey and Table Mountain Observatory.
The object is just a few metres across and has been provisionally classified as artificial. 6Q0B44E orbits Earth between 585,000 and 983,000 km, which is 2 to 3 times the distance of the Moon's orbit, over a period of 80 days. Its density has been estimated as around 15 kg/m3, too low for natural rock and comparable to that expected for an empty fuel tank.
6Q0B44E was spotted at what is believed to be the brightest part of its orbit, at 19th magnitude. As the object moves away from Earth, its brightness falls on a six-month cycle down to 28th magnitude, severely limiting study of its composition.
Ephemerides calculated from the observations suggest that 6Q0B44E probably entered the Earth–Moon system between 2001 and 2003, although it may have arrived up to a decade earlier. Similarities between the discoveries of 6Q0B44E and J002E3, now believed to be part of the Apollo 12 rocket, have led some astronomers to speculate that 6Q0B44E may be another relic of human space exploration which has returned to Earth orbit. However, no space mission has been identified as the source of 6Q0B44E.
- Distant Artificial-Satellites Observers Circulars, DASO Circular No. 63, 29 August 2006
- The Guardian, Spacewatch, 6 September 2006
- Micheli, Marco; Tholen, David J.; Elliott, Garrett T. (2012). "Detection of radiation pressure acting on 2009 BD". New Astronomy. 17 (4): 446. arXiv:1106.0564. Bibcode:2012NewA...17..446M. doi:10.1016/j.newast.2011.11.008.
- Bill Gray, Pseudo-MPEC for 6Q0B44E Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine, 3 September 2006
- Azriel, Merryl (25 September 2013). "Rocket or Rock? NEO Confusion Abounds". Space Safety Magazine. Retrieved 8 December 2013.
6Q0B44E was first thought to be a meteor when it was spotted in 2006; it’s now considered artificial but its originating spacecraft is not known.
- The Distant Artificial Satellites Observation Page, accessed 2011-01-08
- Discovery of 6Q0B44E, by Richard Kowalski 30 August 2006