An unidentified object was spotted on a collision course with Earth, triggering the alarm among planetary defense specialists. Thankfully, the object was identified before any drastic emergency measures were taken.
Given the slew of space rocks which shoot through our cosmic backyard each week, it’s unsurprising that an unidentified object spotted headed right at the Earth would raise the alarm. The University of Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey, funded by NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), spotted the UFO late on August 25.
The sighting was corroborated by the University of Hawaii’s Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System.
After crunching some numbers, and consulting ancient tomes from the 1960s, the specialists had cracked the case. The UFO was, in fact, NASA’s Orbiting Geophysics Observatory 1 (OGO-1), headed home after 56 years in space.
Having arrived in orbit in September 1964, the satellite burned up harmlessly in the atmosphere, raining down fiery debris over the Pacific Ocean some 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Tahiti, in French Polynesia on Saturday, August 26 at 20:44 UTC according to NASA.
OGO-1, along with five other satellites, was launched to chart and study the Earth’s magnetosphere, atmosphere, the Earth’s relationship with the Moon and the impact of the Sun’s rays on the space immediately surrounding our planet.
Its function began diminishing after five years in space at which point the decision was made to place it in standby mode in November 1969, before being decommissioned two years later.
At this point, the 487-kilogram (1,074-pound) satellite joined the thousands of other fragments of space junk clogging up Earth’s backyard.
It then proceeded to fall ever so slowly back down to Earth thanks to its eccentric orbit, which brought it just close enough for Earth’s gravity to convince it to come back down in a blaze of glory this past week.
Despite being the first of six OGO satellites launched, it was the last to come back down, the other five burned up upon reentry between 1972 and 2011, their debris falling harmlessly into the ocean.
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