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TECHNOLOGY

Strange ball lands in Scotland, astronomers say it’s Elon Musk’s junk

Por: Ecoo sfera15 de septiembre de 2022

The videos captured by different citizens of the United Kingdom show an unknown object that seems to break up as it advances in the sky.

Residents of Scotland spotted a strange object in the night sky, an unexpected fireball that crossed the celestial vault, and amazed all those who had the opportunity to admire it. And although many initially cataloged it as a shooting star or a meteorite that managed to enter from space, the reality is cruder. According to experts, it is space debris from Elon Musk’s satellite internet company.

The fireball was seen for 20 seconds

The UK Meteor Network said that the fireball was visible for at least 20 seconds and that thanks to the phenomenon, it received about 800 reports from Scotland, Northern Ireland, and northern England. The videos captured by different citizens of the United Kingdom show an unknown object that seems to break up as it advances in the sky.

Despite immediate conjecture that it was a meteor entering the atmosphere, expert John Mclean, an astronomer with the Meteor Network, said it was most likely space debris. “What we’re looking at right now is a Starlink satellite, which actually should have left orbit or re-entered the atmosphere today, but it’s possible it left orbit a little earlier,” the astronomer said.

Elon Musk’s company Starlink has launched more than 2,400 satellites into space to provide its satellite internet service. Supposedly, the company’s goal is to launch a total of 42,000 devices to form the largest Internet network. However, since the tycoon announced his initial plans to launch thousands of satellites into space, many researchers, astronomers, and environmentalists have strongly opposed his plan.

A huge constellation of satellites is synonymous with a large amount of space debris that impedes the view of ground-based telescopes to continue studying the Universe. A worrying situation as we are no longer just dealing with terrestrial debris, but now gigantic volumes of space debris are also being generated.

Space debris and not a meteor

John Maclean explained that most meteors enter the atmosphere at much higher speeds, around 120,000 kilometers per hour. Space debris, on the other hand, is much slower, reaching speeds of only 40,000 to 48,000 kilometers per hour.

Therefore, the way they can be visibly differentiated is that meteors can only be observed for a few seconds. Contrary to space debris which tends to be seen for much longer and since the object observed in Scotland could be seen for 20 seconds, the conclusion is that it was space debris.

“The trajectory was from south to north. It was first noticed as it moved from the north of England. It probably burned up in the atmosphere. But if anything landed, it would have been in the Atlantic, near the Hebrides,” Maclean added.

And while it was an unusual phenomenon for observers, Maclean says that in reality, Starlink satellites leave orbit fairly regularly, because they have a finite lifetime of usefulness in space. “We expect more than 40,000 satellites in the next few years. Soon, every fifth object you see in the night sky could be a satellite, which is going to cause big problems for astronomers,” the researcher concluded.

Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera


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