So long, WT1190F.
IAC/UAE Space Agency/NASA/ESA
For more than a month now, space-watchers have been anticipating the collision of a mysterious unidentified flying object with Earth, or at least with Earth’s atmosphere.
The literal UFO, named WT1190F, was believed to be an old rocket body of some sort. A team from the International Astronomy Center and the UAE Space Agency may be the only people to have seen its final moments in real time.
Studying the eccentric orbits of WT1190F allowed scientists to pinpoint where and when it would likely break up. Around midday Friday local time, sky gazers set up telescopes along the coast of Sri Lanka and pointed them offshore where a fireball bright enough to see in the daytime sky was possible.
According to Sri Lankan media, disappointed sky watchers didn’t observe anything from the ground, but the UAE space agency sponsored a special airborne observation mission and invited American and German researchers along for the ride to document the demise of, well, a UFO (but probably a man-made one). Presumably, the plane stayed clear of a no-fly zone set up by the Sri Lankan government to keep flights from being pelted by space garbage (or had special permission to ignore it).
You can see the video of its demise below for yourself. It’s a little underwhelming, but some still shots later on in the video really capture the moment it explodes.
We barely knew you, WT1190F, but an unidentified piece of space trash never had a more spectacular send-off.