An Unidentified Mysterious Object (UMO. Yeah, I’m calling it that) has been observed by scientists, who predict that it will collide with the Earth (off the coast of Sri Lanka) on the 13th of November. They believe that it is probably artificial in origin- though whether it is artificial in the used-astronaut-toilet-paper sense or in the Independence-Day sense appears to be unknown.
Completely disproving the notion that astrophysicists (besides Neil deGrasse Tyson, obviously) are dusty, boring people who stare at the sky all day (huh, I do that), the UMO was named WT1190F. I could be giving them too much credit, and this is probably just a coincidence.
“It’s a lost piece of space history that’s come back to haunt us,”Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Nature.
The Catalina Sky Survey, an observation lab with the University of Tucson, had originally detected the UMO. Though astronomers were originally puzzled, they soon realised that the object was present in older images- all the way back to 2012.
The object was found to be orbiting the Earth at a wider orbit than the Moon. The scientists reasoned that this object must have been left behind by Man.
“To fit the solar radiation pressure effects on its orbit you need to assume a high area-to-mass ratio – implying the thing is hollow, like an empty rocket stage would be,” McDowell told Popular Mechanics.
“So it has the right size and properties, and it is in an orbit which would be surprising for a natural object (whizzing around the Earth-Moon system) but where we know there are a bunch of pieces of space junk.”
The astronomers hypothesize that the object could even be from the Apollo Moon missions. But nobody will ever know for sure, because the object will probably be burnt to ash on the way down, and the remainder will land in the middle of nowhere.
“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,” said McDowell of its potential disintegration, before warning that he “would not necessarily want to be going fishing directly underneath it.”
It seems that the WTF will be used to simulate larger-scale asteroid impacts: alerts will be raised and multiple labs will track the debris in real-time. Unfortunately, the military won’t be called up and Bruce Willis will stay on stand-by.
“What we planned to do seems to work. But it’s still three weeks to go,” Gerhard Drolshagen, who manages the European Space Agency’s near-Earth objects office, told Nature.
86 other UMOs, apart from the known bits of space crap, are charted to enter the Earth’s atmosphere eventually.
Dozens of other UMOs will probably remain in orbit for longer than the crap we’ve made on Earth will exist.
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