Space debris will dazzle Sri Lankans, test skywatchers

Enlarge / Predicated location for impact of WT1190F on November 13. (credit: Bill Gray)

In a few weeks, Sri Lankans may exclaim “WTF!” and they won’t be far from the truth. Skywatchers say a human-made piece of orbital debris a few meters long will fall to Earth on November 13th just south of the small island nation in the Indian Ocean. Named WT1190F, the object should create a bright streak in the sky.

Scientists are also excited about the space junk because it offers a rare opportunity to plan for and track the return of a piece of debris. With current survey technology, astronomers have found most objects larger than one kilometer across, but tracking smaller debris is hit or miss—mostly miss.

Bill Gray, an astronomy software developer, discussed the opportunity to see the space debris burn up in a message on the Minor Planet Mailing List. “Its mass is not sufficient to cause any threat to the area, but the show will still be spectacular, since for a few seconds the object will become quite bright in the noon sky,” he wrote. The object will fall into the ocean about 100km south of Sri Lanka at approximately 06:20 Universal Time.

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