Space Debris To Collide With Earth On Friday The 13th

According to the European Space Agency, something is going to fall to Earth on Friday, 13 November. A mysterious piece of space debris named WT1190F is predicted to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere at around 06:20 GMT in the skies above the Indian Ocean. While it’s expected to burn up in the atmosphere about 100km off the south coast of Sri Lanka, it is not impossible that smaller fragments could crash onto the surface.

The object must be the remains from a previous space mission, most likely a spent rocket from one of the recent robotic moon missions or even a relic from the Apollo era. But while it may seem like a bad omen, scientists are excited. It is notoriously difficult to predict exactly where debris that fall to the Earth will hit, so the opportunity to study the trajectory of WT1190F could help improve current methods.

A display of fireballs

The object was first spotted by the Catalina Sky Survey in 2013, swinging within 250,000km of the Earth before plunging back out into space to a distance of around half a million kilometers, twice as far away as the moon. But its elliptical orbit is unstable and the altitude of the object’s closest approach to the Earth has been falling. On Friday, this will cause it to dip into the atmosphere while moving at a speed of several kilometers per second. When this happens, atmospheric drag will slow it down and cause it to fall from orbit while the frictional effect of the air rushing past will pummel, heat and vaporize the object.

According to astronomers who have estimated its size and density, the object is about 1-2 meters in diameter and hollow. Luckily that means it is too small and fragile to be likely to make it to the —> Read More