The European Space Agency is tracking a UFO that is projected to enter the Earth’s atmosphere on or around November 13. The object, designated WT1190F and unofficially shortened to WTF, is caught in Earth’s gravity and is being pulled in. However, the object in no way represents anything catastrophic.
CBS News reported October 27 that the object, according to the European Space Agency (ESA), posed little threat to our planet and would likely burn up on reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. Reentry? Yes, because scientists at the ESA believe that the object is a bit of space junk, perhaps a rocket shell, that is making its way back to Earth. This, according to CBS News, is why the object shouldn’t really be considered a UFO. Still, technically, since the mysterious object is not as yet identified and they do not know for certain what it is — it’s a UFO.
But a bit of buzz on the internet about a UFO called WTF being a planet killer is quite the exaggeration. As the ESA noted last week in a statement that WT1190F has been tracked since 2013 and measures only a few meters across. Tim Flohrer, working out of ESA’s Space Debris Office at the ESOC operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany, noted: “The object is quite small, at most a couple of metres in diameter, and a significant fraction if not all of it can be expected to completely burn up in the atmosphere.”
The team that announced WTF’s reentry has located the object before, and it is known to orbit the Earth in an eccentric orbit every three weeks. As to what it might actually be, Near-Earth Object experts have been able to analyze WTF’s density and have found it to be far less dense that rocky asteroids. Detlef Koschny, director of Near-Earth Object activities at ESA’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) program me office, explains: “This density is in fact compatible with the object being a hollow shell, such as the spent upper stage of a rocket body or part of a stage.”
The agency also has a good idea where the object will fall. WTC is expected, if anything remains after its reentry burn, to crash harmlessly into the Indian Ocean. According to Huffington Post, the object will hit approximately 60 miles south of Sri Lanka.
Space junk or space rock (or forever a UFO if the object is never positively identified), WT1190F is being targeted in an effort to help scientists improve their understanding of how objects – both man-made or natural – interact with Earth’s atmosphere upon reentry. Observations gained from studying WTF’s reentry is hoped to improve orbital models and reentry prediction tools for Near-Earth Objects — not to mention satellites in orbital decay — as well.
The ESA’s announcement comes just last week after NASA revealed a recently discovered near-Earth asteroid headed toward Earth. The newly found (October 10) object, nicknamed the Halloween asteroid, is scheduled to make a close fly-by of the Earth on Halloween night. Unlike object WT1190F, this asteroid, designated 2015 TB145, is nearly an estimated 30 times the size of the Chelyabinsk meteor and its destructive potential highlights the need for near-Earth object vigilance. But like WTF, the Halloween asteroid poses no real threat to Earth, as it will be 310,000 miles from Earth at its closest passage.