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13 November, 2015 09:34 AM Source: Financial Times - Sri Lanka
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An unidentified piece of space debris is expected to enter Earth’s atmosphere and land in the Indian ocean, off the southern coast of Sri Lanka today (13) at approximately 11:50 a.m., ending its decades-long journey in the universe.
A European Space Agency (ESA) team has already positioned itself along the southern tip of Sri Lanka, in Matara, to cover the imminent splashdown of mystery object WT1190F.
According to Marco Micheli, an astronomer at the ESA Space Situational Awareness-Near Earth Object Coordination Centre (SSA-NEOCC), the object has been in Earth’s orbit since at least 2009, and is speculated to be the rocket booster, aka ‘Snoopy’, from NASA’s Apollo 10 mission in 1969.
WT1190 is expected to splash into the Indian Ocean just 65kmoff the southern coast of Sri Lanka according to the ESA, which has predicted the object’s trajectory based on data from 2012 and 2013. It is forecasted to move from North West to South East and is expected to explode at an altitude of 80km above sea level. As it is still a mysterious object, its remains are unlikely to reach the ground, but a fireball is expected once it enters the lower altitudes.
The team of ESA scientists are assisted in Sri Lanka by a team from Ruhunu University, led by Subath Amaradasa, to observe and report the end of WT1109F’s journey. Remnants of the object, if intact after it punctures Earth’s orbit, would be vital in ascertaining its origins.
Micheli adds: “The object has been moving in an elongated orbit with apogee at about twice the distance of the Moon, and perigee getting closer and closer to the Earth, until the upcoming re-entry. Since 2009, it has completed dozens of orbits around the Earth, and each orbit is about a month long.”
Explaining the entity’s distinction from the International Space Station (ISS), Micheli states, “Given the fact that the orbit is so long, the geometry is totally different from a pass of the ISS. The latter orbits the Earth in about 90 minutes, while WT1190F takes weeks. The current pass is actually the last part of the last orbit for this object.”

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