Earlier this morning a piece of space junk called WT1190F entered Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated. Here’s some of the only confirmed footage of the spectacular event we’ve seen so far:
Did you see it? It’s the bright streak of light that looks like a shooting star.
This footage was collected by a team of scientists working with SETI, the United Arab Emirates Space Agency, the InterActiveCorp, and other institutions.
To get such a close look, some of the team members hopped on a plane so they could be in the air at the time WT1190F entered the atmosphere. Of course, they were flying at a safe enough distance from the object that it posed no threat to their aircraft.
WT1190F re-entered Earth’s atmosphere over a patch of Indian Ocean off the Sri Lankan coast, which meant that only people located in the southern province of Sri Lanka had a chance to spot it.
Luckily, some of them posted some pretty great pictures on Twitter:
Here’s a map from BPEarthWatch.com that predicted where the object would fall as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere:
Today’s event was the first time that experts had calculated the exact time and location a piece of space junk would re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.
Though it is nearly impossible to know what WT1190F is, the European Space Agency suspects it could be a chunk of a fuel tank that once powered a rocket to space and was then discarded.
Scientists hope to use their observations of how WT1190F broke up to improve predictive models of how objects interact with Earth’s atmosphere, which is important for establishing danger zones if, say, a large asteroid were to strike over a highly populated area at some point in the unforeseen future.