Early Monday morning, a strange looking object lit up the southern sky. Recent developments of the matter, though, have marked the situation even stranger than it first appeared. NASA says the mysterious object over Georgia was not a meteor, its speed proving to be too low for such an event.
As expected, speculations have arisen as to what this wird phenomenon might mean. Some say it’s the end of the world. Others, more optimistic, think that it was just “space junk.” But, the most relevant piece of information comes from a representative for the U.S. Strategic Command, Martin O’Donnell. He released a statement in which it is said that the object was part of a rocket body which reentered Earth’s atmosphere.
Several witnesses thought it was a plane that had caught fire and was about to crash. Many others who posted their videos of the phenomenon online were much more imaginative: top secret government experiments? Aliens?
NASA recorded the would-be-spaceship at 1:30 AM EST, with five different cameras, and determined that its re-entry speed was around 14,500 mph. William Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office said while being interviewed that although it was travelling very fast, it was still about five thousand mph short of the twenty thousand mark which should indicate objects classifiable as meteors.
Although Georgia was the main state which had the chance to witness this fascinating event, residents of Tennessee, Alabama, and South Carolina were also able to view the so called “fireball.”
In the end, there was no impact as the object completely burned up. Stacey Alexander from Rome, GA said that it looked like it just kept descending when it ultimately disappeared.
Considering the number of abandoned artificial satellites the Earth has lying about its orbit, it’s no wonder some of them might turn up every now and then. As David Dundee of the Tellus Science Museum puts it: “There’s a lot of old stuff kicking around up there.” This event could be linked with the incident in April, 2013, when a defunct Soviet reconnaissance satellite almost destroyed NASA’s $690 million Fermi Space Telescope.
Together, both these events raise the question: has the time come to send up teams of people, or machines to clean up Earth’s orbit?
Image source: media.cmgdigital.com