Astronomers are currently observing an unidentified and massive piece of space junk strangely called WT1190F which is expected to crash back to the Indian Ocean on Nov. 13. The WT1190F is one of the few space objects that has been documented and accurately predicted from the start of its discovery.
The reentry of the space object is seen by scientists as an opportunity to study and understand how such objects interact with our planet's atmosphere. Scientists from the European Space Agency say that the WT1190F was a debris that had been orbiting near the Moon before being seen by astronomers.
Discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey in 2013, the WT1190F was still a mystery to astronomers back then. After collecting and comparing information from sightings during 2012 and 2013, astronomers were able to compute for the space object's trajectory.
Detlef Koschny, head of the ESA's near-Earth Objects (NEO) segment, explained that NEO experts estimated the density of the WT1190F and it turned out to be less than the density of the solid rocky material that makes up most asteroids.
"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," said Koschny.
Independent astronomy software developer Bill Gray who has been working with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to track the WT1190F said their estimations reveal that the space object will plunge into the ocean near Sri Lanka at 06:19 GMT (11:49 local; 07:19 CET). Much of the WT1190F will burn up into the atmosphere, but he still warns the public not to go fishing anywhere the crashing site.
Scientists believe that the space object is one to two meters (39 to 78 inches) in size and that it may have been a part of the Apollo era, or that it was a spent rocket paneling from a previous lunar mission.
Space objects like the WT1190F are rare sightings. Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said that the disruptive presence of the Sun and the Moon must have triggered the space object to move into a path that will lead to its self-destruction in the Earth's atmosphere.
"(It's) a lost piece of space history that's come back to haunt us," added McDowell.