Astronomers have caught what could be their final image of Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster as it sinks deep into space.
A tiny dot at the center of the image, the car is barely visible among many bright stars. Soon, it will be too far away from Earth for normal telescopes to capture.
The SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launched its CEO’s cherry red sports car into space on February 6. The most powerful operational rocket in the world, the Falcon Heavy can lift up to 141,000lbs into orbit. Its 27 engines can generate more than 5 millions pounds of thrust—the same as 18 jumbo jets.
Astronomers Gianluca Masi, of the Virtual Telescope Project, and Michael Schwartz, founder of Tenagra Observatories, have been watching the car since lift-off. They even hosted a livestream of the car fading into space on Valentine’s Day.
Now an extremely faint pinprick of light, the car has traveled millions of miles from Earth. Piloted by a mannequin nicknamed "Starman," it is set to move beyond even Mars’ orbit on its voyage.
The car is destined to career through space for millions of years. Its orbit will bring it relatively near Earth in the future, but it could be a long time before earthlings get another close look at the car.
“We will have to wait for decades before the Tesla will have an interesting, new close approach with the Earth,” Masi previously told Newsweek.
In fact, some researchers think the car will eventually collide with Earth, or Venus, at some point in the next 10 million years.
One Twitter user questioned Musk’s motives for shipping Starman so far away:
Whether you think orbiting car is a tremendous human achievement or just a publicity stunt, it has certainly got people interested in space.
“This event makes space exploration an even more popular topic—everyone is now talking about us and space, us and Mars," Masi previously said. "Hopefully, this will help work in that direction—supporting our desires and hopes to reach Mars sometime in the near future.”
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