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A piece of unidentified space junk, discovered in a long elliptical orbit going out far beyond the Moon, has been calculated to hit the Earth over the Indian Ocean on November 13.
WT1190F was detected by the Catalina Sky Survey, a program aimed at discovering asteroids and comets that swing close to Earth. At first scientists didn’t know what to make of this weird body. But they quickly computed its trajectory, after collecting more observations and unearthing 2012 and 2013 sightings from telescope archives, says independent astronomy software developer Bill Gray, who has been working to track the debris with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
WT1190F travels a highly elliptical orbit, swinging out twice as far as the Earth-Moon distance, Gray says. Gray’s calculations show that it will hit the Earth at 6:20 UTC, falling about 65 kilometres off the southern tip of Sri Lanka. Much if not all of it will burn up in the atmosphere, but “I would not necessarily want to be going fishing directly underneath it,” Gray says.
What makes the object interesting is that they don’t know when it was launched or how it got in the orbit it is in. It could even be something from the Apollo lunar missions.