Russian Spy Satellite Falls Out of the Sky

Russian Spy Satellite Falls Out of the Sky

( – Space is immensely cool. It’s not the safest place, though, and not everything that goes up into space stays there. Space debris from past rocket launches and satellites often re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at some point, sometimes to dramatic effect. One Russian craft seems to have fallen much sooner than expected.

On October 20 at around 12:43 a.m., a fireball lit up the sky over the Midwest region of the United States. People from Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan, and Illinois immediately began filing reports about the incident with the American Meteor Society (AMS).

While some eyewitnesses didn’t know what to think, an astrophysicist at Harvard named Jonathan McDowell is confident he knows what caused the light show.

McDowell claims the fireball resulted from a Russian satellite that failed to adjust its orbit after it launched on September 9. The Harvard astrophysicist noted that the satellite, Kosmos-2551, had been circling the Earth 17 times a day; its velocity decreased after every pass around the planet.

McDowell says he checked the satellite’s orbit on when he first heard about the fiery incident. He discovered that Kosmos-2551 was in the right place at the right time to break up and reenter the atmosphere.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) did confirm the fireball originated from a satellite but did not clarify which one. That doesn’t surprise McDowell, who says NASA and other government agencies are highly unlikely to admit it was foreign. Still, he’s confident the falling debris came from Kosmos-2551 based on available evidence alone.

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