The booster stage was photographed by the Virtual Telescope project on February 8, 2022. In early March, the step crashed into the moon.
The picture was taken in early February, when the body of the booster could be seen through a 43-cm flat-wave telescope, which is located near Rome. Virtual Telescope founder Gianluca Masi said the rocket was about 4,000 km from Earth at the time of the image.
The 60-second exposure shows the hull in the final weeks before it crashes into the Moon. The collision happened on Friday, March 4, at 12:25 GMT: it happened on the far side of the Moon, so it was out of view of ground-based telescopes.
The booster body is part of the Long March 3C rocket that launched China’s Chang’e 5-T1 mission into space in 2014. Other experts have also come to a similar conclusion in recent weeks.
NASA officials said they plan to use the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to find the impact crater. But this process will most likely take weeks or months, since the LRO was outside the impact zone, and it will take some time to analyze the images.