Feb 16, 2009 | 5
When people in northern Texas saw debris burning up the sky yesterday, some quite understandably thought it might be shrapnel from last week's unfortunate game of chicken in space between U.S. and Russian satellites.
Fox News reported that flaming debris may have caused a grass fire in Penelope, Tex., about 60 miles south of Dallas. Several area residents had called 911 at 11 A.M. local time on February 15 thinking the boom they heard had come from a small plane crashing.
So was it the remains of the two satellites that collided over Siberia?
The U.S. Strategic Command Monday says no, reported News 8 Austin. And other experts seem to agree, pointing out that the objects seen in the sky were moving too fast and appeared too soon after the satellite collision to have been man-made.
Feb 11, 2009 | 19
A commercial satellite collided with a Russian satellite over Siberia yesterday, yielding a cloud of fragments, according to a NASA scientist tracking space debris. The collision between the commercial satellite, belonging to the American communications firm Iridium, and the Russian satellite, believed to be defunct based on its advanced age, was the first of its kind, says Nicholas Johnson, chief scientist at the NASA Orbital Debris Program at Johnson Space Center in Houston. (A spokesperson for Iridium said a statement on the incident would be released shortly.)*
"In the past almost 20 years, there have been three other accidental collisions between objects in orbit, but they've all been very minor," Johnson says. "The most debris ever produced in an event was like four debris, and this is two intact spacecraft colliding, and we have hundreds of debris out there. We don't know exactly how many yet."
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