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Satellite wreckage falls on Kentucky, Texas, New Mexico
Joe Byrne
Published: Sunday February 15, 2009


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A collision of two satellites in space on Tuesday has been lighting up the sky and rattling the windows in certain regions of the U.S this weekend. On Friday night, residents in southeastern Kentucky were reporting "blue and white lights" in the sky and loud booms, presumed to be hypersonic shock waves as the debris enters the atmosphere. NOAA announced debris following in the Lexington area.

Today, the debris is falling over north Texas and New Mexico. A fireball burned out in the sky in between Dallas and Austin at around 11 am, according to the Dallas Morning News. Onlookers were alarmed by a "red and orange fireball with a small black center speeding toward Earth before burning out in a trail of lingering white smoke." So far, no injuries have resulted from any falling debris. Emergency officials believe the debris to be falling over a 500-mile region.

However, Alberta was put on high alert on Friday morning for a 'school bus sized' piece of debris which eventually fell into the Atlantic Ocean. It is still unclear if debris will continue to fall, and where.

A satellite crash that occurred on Tuesday was the first of its kind, NASA reported Wednesday. Two communications satellites, a privately owned US machine and a presumably defunct Russian Cosmos orbiter, collided over northern Siberia around noon ET. The crash resulted in 1,200 new pieces of debris going in every direction. Experts are concerned about the damage that the debris may cause to other satellites.

"There are quite a lot of satellites in nearby orbits," said Igor Lisov, a Russian space expert who spoke to AP on Thursday. "Fragments may trigger a chain of collisions," he added.

The Union of Concerned Scientists released a statement on Thursday explaining that this collision "significantly increased" the amount of debris in a critical altitude of space. Before this collision, there were 3000 objects orbiting at an altitude of around 500 miles. That number may have increased by almost 15% with one collision, which may become increasingly likely. Over a period of years, the debris cloud spreads out to form a "shell" around the Earth, and is at risk of collision with any satellite at that altitude. The report predicts that an active satellite will collide with a piece of space debris every three to four years.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated the distance of orbiting objects


 
 


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