Will the crash-landing of the massive space object aptly nicknamed as "WTF 1190" be humanity's tragic doom?
Not really, experts say.
The space object, which was technically termed WT1190F, has garnered attention from social media users for its strangely comical name and mysterious nature. Although it is still unidentified, it is predicted by scientists to plunge into the Indian Ocean on Friday the 13th next month.
Astronomers from the European Space Agency (ESA) clarified that the impact of the space object may pose little threat to anyone, and that studying the WT1190F even provides scientific opportunity to understand how space objects behave within the Earth's atmosphere.
Dr. Tim Flohrer, head of ESA's Space Situational Awareness Program office, explained that the space object is only a couple of inches in diameter, and that parts of it will completely burn up even before crashing into the planet. The mass of the space object is not enough to cause any danger, but the WT1190F's crash-landing will be quite spectacular as its burning fragments brighten up in the sky.
Researchers from ESA say that the WT1190F is likely a man-made object from several lunar missions, or it may even be equipment from the Apollo space expedition.
Meanwhile, the space agency's Near-Earth Objects Coordination Center (NEOCC) have been collecting and examining data regarding the WT1190F.
Marco Micheli, an astronomer at the NEOCC, said that the event is a chance for astronomers to perform and practice readiness tests in case any future asteroid entries crash into the atmosphere. He explained that the components of the space object are very similar to the components of asteroids.
"What we planned to do seems to work. But it's still three weeks to go," said Gerhard Drolshagen, co-manager of the research team.
Researchers believe that there are possibly more pieces of space junk orbiting around the planet. It is more likely that some have made their entry into the Earth without anyone noticing, they say.
Scientists also said that finding space objects which may potentially bring destruction to areas on land do not get any funding or attention. The U.S. military, despite being able to track space objects, admitted that they lack the resources to predict the path of the WT1190F.