Astronomers Spotted Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster as it Flies Through Space

Elon Musk made sensational headlines earlier this week when his company SpaceX launched an electric sports car into space. The Tesla Roadster, ferried by a Falcon Heavy rocket, is now sailing through the cosmos, manned by a dummy the company has appropriately dubbed "Starman.' 

The first car in space is flashy PR gamesmanship from Musk, who's equipped the Roadster -- replete with messages for aliens -- to sail through the cosmos for potentially millions of years. For now, though, distant history will have to wait, because astronomers have already shared photos of Starman's nascent journey through the darkness of space.

Scientists from the Virtual Telescope Project managed to capture an image of the Roadster drifting among the stars. You can see it move across the screen -- it's a tiny dot -- in the image below: 

Courtesy: Virtual Telescope Project

Using equipment from NASA's Jet Propulsion Labratory to track the car's whereabouts, Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project teamed with Michael Schwartz of Tenagra Observatorie. The astronomers spotted the Roadster's interstellar traversal from a vantage point in Arizona.

Additional views of the car were captured by Jonathan McDowell of Deimos Sky Survey:

Starman is heading into the unknown, it was revealed shortly after the Falcon Heavy's launch from Kennedy Space Center in Merrit Island, Florida. Musk noted the rocket overshot its original trajectory, which would have put it on course to eventually reach a Martian orbit. He tweeted the revised flight path, although astronomers observing the Roadster have disputed some of his calculations. 

Now, according to The Verge, the Tesla is likely to reach 160 million miles from the Sun, and won't come within relative touching distance of Mars until October 2020, when it will sail past the Red Planet from 4.3 million miles away.

While a scientific feat to be sure, SpaceX should be poised to launch other payloads deep into space that probably won't involve dummies or Tesla Roadsters. But given Musk's proclivity for zany stunts, who can be sure?

[h/t Mashable, The Verge]

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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Esquire. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster