If it doesn’t burn up completely into our planet’s atmosphere, a mystery space object is expected to splash into Indian ocean Nov. 13. Although some have speculated that the object called WT1190F may spell the doom for humankind, scientists reassure us that there is no need to panic.
On Nov. 13, the object is expected to enter our atmosphere and burn up nearby Sri Lanka. Scientists explained that the object is to small to make it in one piece to the ground. It should disintegrate in the air.
But one may think what the mystery space object really is. Is it a comet or a small asteroid? In 2008, an 80-ton asteroid dubbed 2008 TC3 entered our planet’s atmosphere and exploded at about 23 miles above ground in the Nubian Desert. The asteroid weighed only 23 pounds before it exploded and turned into 600 tiny meteors.
Yet, this time scientists believe that the mystery space object is a stray rocket part such as a booster or fuel tank. WT1190F was first spotted Oct. 3 by a scientist while he was analyzing data collected by the Catalina Sky Survey.
The author of the discovery Rose Matheny explained that the object was too small to be an asteroid. Plus, it orbits our planet. If it were an asteroid or comet it would have come from the depths of space.
Matheny said that WT1190F has an orbit very similar to the orbit of space debris. It completes a full rotation every three weeks and it can get 1.5 times farther than the Moon can. This suggests that we may be talking about a rocket part rather than a space rock. Yet, scientists weren’t able to tell which mission the rocket part comes from. It may be a past Moon mission.
The European Space Agency confirmed that a mystery space object is expected to splash into Indian ocean Nov. 13. ESA and Near Earth Object (NEO) hunters had the object in their 2013 data. They were even able to calculate its orbit, which can sometimes change especially due to pressure from solar radiation. The ESA also reported that the mystery object had incredibly low density which is highly unusual for an asteroid. A density this low can be explained only if WT1190F is a hollow rocket part like a fuel tank or booster.
Due to its small size (about a few feet across), scientists are confident that it would break up in Earth’s atmosphere and vaporize. The remaining pieces, however, are expected to crash into the Indian Ocean about 62 miles off Sri Lanka.
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