The Washington Post

‘Mysterious’ space ball drops on Namibia — nothing mysterious about it

Here’s a tale ripped from the movies: A hollow ball drops from the sky over a remote grassland in Namibia, prompting NASA and the European Space Agency to investigate. The findings after almost two months of studying that mysterious orb: It’s made of a metal known to man.


The metallic ball that fell out of the sky on a remote grassland in Namibia. (AFP/Getty Images)

According to the AFP, that’s it. Well, that and the fact that “several such balls have dropped in southern Africa, Australia and Latin America in the past 20 years, authorities found in an Internet search.”

What the story fails to mention: The orb is not exactly a mystery. Rather, it’s becoming all the more normal to have metal objects falling from space. Tech blog Gizmodo suggests its likely a metal-lined composite overwrapped pressure vessel — just one of the many objects floating in space.


(NASA Orbital Debris Program Office/Johnson Space Center)

Two satellites have plunged to Earth this fall and Russia’s Phobos Grunt Mars probe is expected to fall sometime in January.

One thing we have going for us on Earth: There’s a lot of empty land out there — and even more open ocean. The chances of debris hitting even one of the 7 billion people on the planet are about 1 to 3,200. As with the case of the mystery ball of Namibia, the objects probably won’t hit anyone.

Still, it’s enough to make one add a metal umbrella to the Christmas list this year.

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