No, it is not a misleading title. UFO stands for unidentified flying object, and researchers just discovered a new piece of ‘space junk’ that has officially been designated as WT119OF. As Scientific American reports, the letters in the name which form the acronym “WTF” is an appropriate expression of bafflement here, “for an object that is as mysterious as it is unprecedented.” ‘Flying’ was left out of the title, because that part is yet to be determined.
The object was detected by the Catalina Sky Survey, a program based out of the University of Arizona, Tucson, designed to discover comets and asteroids that approach the vicinity of our planet.
WT119OF travels in an elliptical orbit, circling the Earth on a longer orbit than the moon, and after going back through past images from various telescopes, astronomers noticed that it has been present since at least 2012.
According to Bill Gray, who has been tracking the debris with astronomers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the object should hit Earth at 6:20 UTC, hitting the ocean approximately 65 kilometres off of the southern tip of Sri Lanka.
What Is It?
The object is only a couple of meters in size and it has a low density, which means, according to researchers, that it could be hollow. Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, believes the object could be “a lost piece of space history that’s come back to haunt us.” He is suggesting it could be part of a rocket, or panelling shed by a recent Moon mission, or some other type of space debris. (source)
A historic comparison to this took place in 2002, when an object was seen orbiting Earth later to be identified as a discarded segment of the Saturn V rocket that launched the second mission to land men on the Moon.
This isn’t a typical UFO that’s commonly tracked on radar flying around in our atmosphere. Those UFOs, after being spotted on radar, are then tracked by military jet pilots who are sent out to take a closer look. You can read more about that (and find sources) here.
According to Scientific American, the US military, which also tracks space debris, says that it lacks the ability to identify WT1190F or to predict its path.
It’s important to mention this, because what we have in this case is not your typical UFO, although it appears to be an artificial object (probably made by humans), the chances are it’s one piece out of many pieces of space debris that’s floating around up there. We will (hopefully) find out soon, that is if the object does not burn up on its path through our atmosphere towards Earth’s surface.
“There is no official, funded effort (that we know of) to do tracking of deep-Earth orbits the way we track low-earth orbit, I think this has to change” – Jonathan McDowell
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