A giant piece of space debris is hurtling towards Earth and is set to crash into our planet in the middle of November. The origin of the junk is unclear but experts believe that it is the remnants of one of the Apollo missions.
Scientists have earmarked Friday 13 November at about 6.15am as the time the object, which has been dubbed WT1190F, comes crashing into Earth. However, people shouldn't fear the object as it is expected to plunge into the Indian Ocean, about 65km off the southern tip of Sri Lanka – that's if it doesn't break up completely upon entering the atmosphere.
But, Bill Gray, who has been tracking the debris with Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, quipped: "I would not necessarily want to be going fishing directly underneath it," according to scientific news outlet Nature.
Experts have been able to clarify that it is a man-made object due to its relatively small size – just one to two metres wide – and its low-density trajectory, which suggests that it is hollow. Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, described it as "a lost piece of space history that's come back to haunt us".
WT1190F was first spotted by astronomers in 2013 but was subsequently lost, until recently. Unlike near-Earth asteroids, man-made objects that are close to us are not properly monitored. "There is no official, funded effort to do tracking of deep-Earth orbits the way we track low-Earth orbit," McDowell says. "I think that has to change".