Space junk is expected to enter Earth’s orbit on November 13th, with scientists stating that it will hit the Indian Ocean, in the vicinity of the Sri Lankan coast.
It is a common occurrence that space debris or space junk enters Earth’s orbit every year. Differing in size, it typically burns in the atmosphere, without impacting our planet. While it may pose some danger to communication satellites, space debris is largely harmless.
The piece of space junk heading our way is dubbed WT1190F. First recorded in 2013 by astronomers with the Catalina Sky Survey, University of Arizona – Tuscon, it has reappeared on the radars only recently.
It’s quite likely that the space junk is part a rocket and may date back to the Apollo missions to the moon during the 1960s and 1970s. Scientists keeping an eye on WT1190F estimate that its size is between three to seven feet. As it appears, it a hollow piece of space debris, observed to have a low density. Which suggests it could well be an hollow rocket stage.
Its fairly recent discovery suggests that for years, WT1190F has been orbiting beyond the moon, without it being tracked from Earth. It’s common for space junk to be found in the Earth’s low orbit. WT1190F is currently tracked by NASA, ESA and the U.S. Military.
However, there is one striking aspect about the piece of space junk. Its unusual orbit is tracked by scientists. WT1190F is observed to have an elliptical orbit, taking it deep in space. Noticed at the furthest distance from Earth, the piece of space debris is two times further from our home planet than the distance between Earth and the Moon.
The piece of space junk is expected to enter Earth’s orbit on November 13th. Jonathan McDowell, astrophysicist with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics declared:
“It’s coming in fast and will get very hot. It’s possible a few dense parts of say a rocket engine will survive to impact the ocean”.
However, it will not cause any damage. Of the approximately 500,000 pieces of space debris found in Earth’s orbit according to NASA, some hurdle towards the planet each year. Of them, a large part simply burn in the atmosphere. Very few impact the planet.
Still, if you’re curious about WT1190F, expect to catch a glimpse of it during daytime. It should burn intensely and be visible on the sky. On November 13th, what is left of it should crush in the Indian Ocean, approximately 40 miles from the Sri Lankan coast.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia