A defunct German research satellite crashed into the Earth somewhere in Southeast Asia on Sunday, a US scientist said — but no one is still quite sure where.
Most parts of the minivan-sized ROSAT research satellite were expected to burn up as they hit the atmosphere at speeds up to 450kph, but up to 30 fragments weighing a total of 1.7 tonnes could have crashed, the German Aerospace Center said.
Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said the satellite appears to have gone down over Southeast Asia. He said two Chinese cities with millions of inhabitants each, Chongqing and Chengdu, had been in the satellite’s projected path during its re-entry time.
“But if it had come down over a populated area there probably would be reports by now,” the astrophysicist, who tracks man-made space objects, said in a telephone interview.
Calculations based on US military data indicate that satellite debris must have crashed somewhere east of Sri Lanka over the Indian Ocean, or over the Andaman Sea off the coast of Myanmar, or further inland in Myanmar or as far inland as China, he said.
The satellite would have taken 15 minutes or less to hit the ground, the German Aerospace Center said. Hours before the re-entry, the center said the satellite was not expected to land in Europe, Africa or Australia.
There were no immediate reports from Asian governments or space agencies about the fallen satellite.
The satellite used to circle the planet in about 90 minutes, and it may have traveled several thousand kilometers during its re-entry, rendering exact predictions of where it crashed difficult.
German space agency spokesman Andreas Schuetz said a falling satellite could also change its flight pattern or even its direction once it sinks to within 150km above the Earth.
Schuetz said the agency was waiting for data from scientific partners around the globe, adding it took the US space agency NASA several days to establish where one of its satellites had hit last month.
“The impact would be similar to, say, an airliner having dropped an engine,” McDowell said. “It would damage whatever it fell on, but it wouldn’t have widespread consequences.”
The 2.4 tonne scientific ROSAT satellite was launched in Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 1990 and retired in 1999 after being used for research on black holes and neutron stars and performing the first all-sky survey of X-ray sources with an imaging telescope.
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500