SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s a piece of space junk — WT1190F — and it’s colliding with Earth on Friday, the 13th!
That’s what scientists are calling a mystery piece of orbital debris heading our way. And impact really is Friday, November 13.
WT1190F was orbiting beyond the moon, and according to a report in the science journal Nature, was “glimpsed by a telescope in early October.”
Scientists say it is three to six feet long and man-made. As for exactly where it came from, there is speculation it could be some 50-year old spent rocket, or perhaps a piece of “paneling shed by a recent moon mission.” Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard called it “a lost piece of space history that’s come back to haunt us.”
Bill Gray at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena has been tracking WT1190F. He calculates it will land somewhere in the Indian Ocean off the southern tip of Sri Lanka, but will likely burn up before reaching earth.
Still, Gray cautions, “I would not necessarily want to be going fishing directly underneath it.”
According to NASA there are more than half a million pieces of debris orbiting Earth at speeds up to 17,500 mph. Given WT1190F is landing on unlucky Friday the 13th, suspicious earthlings in the target landing zone should probably duck for this one.
CBSSF.com writer, producer Jan Mabry is also executive producer and host of The Bronze Report. She lives in Northern California. Follow her on Twitter @janmabr.