Space Junk To Return: Object Named ‘WT1190F’ On Collision Course With Earth, Potential Indian Ocean Crash Site

An object hurtling through space toward Earth named “WT1190F” or “WTF” is expected to most likely break up in the atmosphere somewhere above the Indian Ocean south of Sri Lanka on November 13, as previously reported by the Inquisitr.

The European Space Agency speculates that the space junk may be a rocket body, and states that it poses “very little risk” to humans. The space agency elaborates that the reentry may help it and other scientists to learn about how matter interacts with the Earth’s atmosphere when entering it from outer space.

In February 2013, residents of Chelyabinsk, Yekaterinburg, and Tyumen in Russia, as well as scientists worldwide, got the shock of their lives when a meteorite exploded in the atmosphere above the Russian countryside. The meteorite is thought have exploded with a force 30 to 40 times greater than the bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in August 1945, reports Space. It was said to have been traveling at about 40,000 miles-per-hour and to have exploded 12 to 15 miles above the surface of the Earth.

The WTF object was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey in 2013. The group shared their findings with the Minor Planet Centre, and the International Astronomical Union. The discovery has been “confirmed” by the European Space Agency Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre in Essrin, Italy.

WTF is said to orbit the Earth every three weeks in a fully “eccentric” orbit.

“NEO experts have used observational data to estimate the object’s density, which turns out to be much less than that of the solid rocky material that comprises many asteroids,” Detlef Koschny, with the ESA’s Space Situational Awareness was quoted.

“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 object is said to be “a couple of meters” in diameter, at largest.

A 1989 depiction of space junk around the Earth. A representation of space junk orbiting the Earth. [Photo by NASA via Getty Images]In a Nova program, “Meteor Strike,” scientists were actually able to collect pieces of the 2013 Russian meteorite and determine that it was composed largely of rock, which was seen as causing it to break apart, safely, in the atmosphere. Some asteroids are composed of large amounts of iron; solid iron does not break up as readily as rock. Had the 2013 Russian meteor been composed of more solid material, the outcome could have been quite different.

This is why the ESA is concerned with the density of the space junk. Less dense material will almost certainly break up under the immense stress placed upon it during reentry. Solid metal or strong rock has a better chance at making it all the way to the surface. Because scientists aren’t exactly sure what the mysterious piece of space junk is made of, it is difficult for them to make a determination of whether or not it will actually hit the Earth, or in this case, likely, the Indian Ocean. Knowing an approximate density of the material helps scientists in their assertion that the object’s fall to Earth is nothing to worry about, posing “very little risk.”

Space debris is expected to land in the Indian Ocean on November 13. [Photo by NASA via Getty Images]Scientists have even pinpointed a time of near 16:19 GMT, or 11:49 a.m. locally, for the object to enter the atmosphere.

Like the Russian meteor, though probably not as spectacular, Sri Lanken residents will most likely be able to see a bright streak and possible explosion in the southern midday sky.

Marco Micheli, an astronomer with the ESA near-earth object group, says that until the object arrives the scientists will be collecting as much information as possible about it, in an effort to learn more about the reentry of objects from “highly eccentric” orbits. Further, Micheli states that collecting the data and finding the remains of any space junk, helps to “test our readiness for any possible future atmospheric entry events.”

[Feature Screenshot via CBS]