October 28

“Let’s start with the facts: Yes, there’s something hurtling through space in our direction. Yes, it’s going to enter the Earth’s atmosphere and possibly land in the Indian Ocean next month. No, scientists don’t know quite what it is. And, no, that doesn’t make it a UFO.

The European Space Agency released information last week about an object spotted streaking through space and heading toward Earth. Headlines are zeroing in on the chance of impact and the unidentified object’s comically apropos nickname. Officially named WT1190F, the object’s catalog number has been popularly shortened to ‘WTF.’

But ESA scientists have a pretty good idea of what it could be — probably a remnant from a past mission, like the hollow shell of part of a spent rocket — and they’re confident that it’s unlikely to be a threat.

‘The expected 13 November reentry of what is likely to be a rocket body poses very little risk to anyone,’ they wrote on the ESA blog Thursday.

‘The object is quite small, at most a couple of meters in diameter, and a significant fraction if not all of it can be expected to completely burn up in the atmosphere,’ said Tim Flohrer, from ESA’s Space Debris Office in Darmstadt, Germany.

Whatever remains of the space junk after the fiery reentry is expected to fall into the Indian Ocean, about 60 miles off the southern coast of Sri Lanka, on Nov. 13.”

For the complete article, please visit, the CBS Interactive Inc. page at this link.

Image courtesy of ESA / D. Duccros

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