Space continues to throw up surprises and scientists have revealed that a mysterious object will come crashing down to Earth in a few weeks time.
Some people consider Friday 13 to be an unlucky date, but this time around it seems like luck is on our side. The strange piece of space junk known as WT1190F will enter our atmosphere before crashing into the Indian Ocean rather than any inhabited areas, according to Fox News.
Space junk predicted to crash safely into Indian Ocean
The space object is predicted to smash into the Indian Ocean around 62 miles off the coast of Sri Lanka. Residents of India’s densely populated cities will be relieved to hear that they seem to have dodged any danger this time around.
WT1190F was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey, and is also being watched by the European Space Agency’s Near Earth Object Coordination Centre (NEOCC).
“The object is likely man made,” read a statement from the NEOCC. The agency revealed that it is only around 6.6 feet wide at most. “The object is quite small, at most a couple of meters in diameter, and a significant fraction if not all of it can be expected to completely burn up in the atmosphere.”
It is thought that the object will enter the Earth’s atmosphere at approximately 2:20 a.m. Eastern Time on November 13. Scientists say that it will not present any significant danger to the surrounding area.
Scientific community excited about opportunities to study object
Despite those confident proclamations, no one has actually specified what the space object is. According to Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., WT1190F could possibly be a spent rocket stage, a paneling shed, or maybe some debris from the Apollo missions.
For scientists at the NEOCC, WT1190F is of great interest. “First, the object is interesting to better understand the re-entry of satellites and debris from high orbits,” it explained. “Second, it provides us with an ideal opportunity to test our readiness for any possible future events involving an asteroid, since the components of this scenario, from discovery to impact, are all very similar.”
Although scientists are constantly adding to our knowledge of space, there are always surprises. This Halloween an asteroid the size of a skyscraper will fly past Earth, only a month after its presence was detected by researchers.
Despite scientific advances space remains full of surprises
“This is the closest approach by a known object this large until 1999 AN10 approaches within 1 lunar distance in August 2027,” said NASA, in a report. “The flyby presents a truly outstanding scientific opportunity to study the physical properties of this object.”
The fact that scientists were unaware of the asteroid until so recently goes to show that there remains a lot for us to learn about space. If we cannot successfully detect the presence of asteroids, we cannot adequately prepare for their impact.
Asteroids always grab public attention due to the dangers that they present, and in August NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory had to squash rumors that Earth would be hit by an asteroid between 15-28 September this year. Let’s hope that scientists are right about the crash site to prevent any loss of life.
Space looks set to become a matter of increasing strategic importance and technology continues to advance rapidly.