Researchers expect a piece of space junk to plummet towards Earth in November, but they don’t have any idea of what is that exactly.
The space object called WTF1190F, is expected to land in the Indian Ocean, approximately 40 miles off the southern tip of Sri Lanka on November 13 at 6:20 UTC.
It could measure up to 7ft long. It comes from either a recent lunar mission or an Apollo program craft that has remained in space for over 40 years.
The object is expected to provide relatively small impact throughout its course until landing. Rather than threatening life on Earth, the object will offer scientists a once in a lifetime opportunity to observe the unknown object.
The trajectory of WTF1190F was first calculated in 2012. University of Arizona-based Catalina Sky Survey astronomers rediscovered the unknown object earlier this month.
According to ESA, the object poses very little risk to people, but could greatly help scientists improve their understanding of how any object, be it natural or man-made, interacts with the atmosphere of Earth.
Independent astronomy software developer, Bill Gray, said that the space junk was moving in an elliptical orbit. Based on its movement, the object is likely hollow inside. The number of space junk that orbit the Earth and moon is unknown, but WT1190F is uncommon.
Gareth Williams, a Minor Planet Centre’s astronomer in Cambridge, said that the strange object was thought to be one of only around 20 man-made objects tracked in distant orbit. And the reason the object propelled on a collision course with Earth is still a mystery.
Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell of Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics based in Cambridge, Massachusetts said that WTF1190F is likely a piece of space history. While the junk is probably coming from recent missions, it can also be a piece from an Apollo Mission more than four decades ago.
If WTF1190F is a piece of man-made rocket, it will be first man-made junk to return Earth independently.