The artificial fireball that flew over Spain was not a missile, but space junk

An artificial fireball flies over Catalonia this Saturday night (BOLIDES AND METEORITES RESEARCH NETWORK (SPMN))

The car was one of millions that took to the Spanish skies in the early hours of Friday to Saturday (11:59 p.m.). Rocket and satellite debris Moving at high speeds in low Earth orbit, and its disposal is one of the great problems to be solved in science and economics Space.

He Space Science Institute (ICE-CSIC) piqued the interest of astronomy fans and quickly ruled out that the car was a missile, as first thought, considering this bright glowing object drifting through Spanish space.

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The phenomenon is very commonAround this time last year, many onlookers in Sacramento, California were hypnotized by streaks of light that suddenly lit up the night sky, and shortly after they were known to be burning remnants of communications equipment removed from Space Station International Two. Years ago, in 2020.

Images of a satellite flying over Spain over Benicassim (Valencian community). (Polite and Meteorite Research Network (SPMN)/X)

Low Earth Orbit (LTO) is an absolute Space junkMost are from man-made objects such as debris from spacecraft, bits of spacecraft paint, rocket parts, defunct satellites, or explosions from objects in orbit flying through space at high speeds.

According to the latest data from the European Space Agency (ESA), there are few around the Earth 35,150 listed wastesTotal weight 11,500 tons, 640 wrecks, explosions, collisions or other unusual events caused its fragmentation.

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ESA sources note, however, that “Not all space debris is tracked and cataloged”: Their estimates indicate that there are more than 131 million worthless pieces of space debris ranging in size from 1 millimeter to 10 centimeters orbiting Earth at an average speed of 36,000 kilometers per hour.

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Most space debris moves very fast and can reach speeds of nearly 29,000 kilometers per hour, nearly seven times the speed of a bullet.

Due to the speed and size of the debris in the OTB, experts agree that the matter represents space debris. Danger to public safety and objects in space and on Earth.

Professor José Luis Torres of the University of Málaga, who coordinates a project on space economics with Professor Annelie Bonkers, warns of these risks: “Bigger than a centimeter Fatal on collision With operational satellites” of which there are currently about 6,000 in orbit.

Researcher Hugh Lewis, an expert on space debris at the University of Southampton (England), has calculated. Space debris problem 'underestimated' The amount of debris in orbit could multiply by 50 between now and 2100 based on planned operations.

An example of so-called “space debris” is the lack of explicit regulation beyond the UN's non-binding international treaty. Market failureBecause there are no property rights No one manages it“, indicates Torres.

The atmosphere is an effective ally in disposing of space debris because, below 300 miles from the surface, most material decays naturally in the dense lower atmosphere and burns up within 10 years. However, above 100 km, where the atmosphere is thinner, the opposite occurs and Debris is lost in space.

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Expert space debris researchers agree “It is not a country's responsibilityBut of all countries traveling in space”, and its management is an international challenge to solve and an opportunity to protect the space environment for future exploration missions.

* Information prepared by EFE

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