An unidentified piece of space junk will hit the Earth’s atmosphere later today over the Indian Ocean about 100 kilometres off the southern coast of Sri Lanka.
The ESA has been tracking the object since it became clear that it would fall into the atmosphere. The agency says it was originally orbiting the Earth from a distance further than the Moon, before that orbit degraded.
The European Space Agency has estimated WT1190F’s density, “which turns out to be much less than that of the solid rocky material that comprises many asteroids”.
“This density is in fact compatible with the object being a hollow shell, such as the spent upper stage of a rocket body or part of a stage,” the ESA’s Detlef Koschny said in a statement.
While WT1109F is expected to burn up completely in the atmosphere, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence isn’t taking any chances. It has banned fishing and ordered a no-fly zone in the region.
For further reading on space junk, and the hazard it presents, see the Cosmos September cover story, Space junk: Catastrophe on the horizon
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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