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Posted at 10:53 AM ET, 09/22/2011

Space junk captured on video as it plummets toward Earth

NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite is expected to make reentry Friday, increasing some Earthlings’ anxiousness over whether a piece of space junk will whack them on the head.


The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS). (NASA/REUTERS)
North America dwellers can, at least, breathe easy. The latest projection from NASA shows that the satellite will not pass over the continent, as The Post’s Joel Achenbach reported.

The six-ton satellite will mostly break up during its return to Earth. But about 26 pieces weighing in at 1,200 pounds will make it through the atmosphere, the Associated Press reports.

These pieces will most likely hit water or unpopulated areas. NASA puts the risk of it falling near inhabited areas at “modest.”

In case you’re still not convinced that you will survive the return of the UARS to Earth, consider this: There’s a 1-in-3,200 chance a human will be hit. The odds that the human will be you is 1-in-21 trillion.

With that in mind, enjoy the haunting images of the UARS captured by amateur astronomer Thierry Legault. From Dunkirk, France, on Sept. 15, Legault used a telescope to film the satellite as it was 252 kilometers (or a little over 150 miles) away from Earth. (Watch the video here.)

It’s a beam of white light, glowing brighter, as it spirals through space. Legault created the images by modifying his telescope to track satellites.


The UARS from 150 miles. (THIERRY LEGEULT)

The satellite is a reminder that above the planet, more than 22,000 pieces of space debris are floating out of control. Most are simply colliding with one another, creating smaller and smaller-sized pieces of junk. A recent report recommends that NASA commit to cleaning up much of the leftover remnants of broken satellites, old rockets and other paraphernalia left out in space as the amount of junk has reached a “tipping point.”

By  |  10:53 AM ET, 09/22/2011

Tags:  NASA; Space

 
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