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Meteors or burning space junk?

Published by Rob on Fri Mar 30, 2007 6:34 am
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SANTIAGO, Chile — Pilots of a Chilean commercial jetliner spotted flaming objects falling past their plane as it headed for a landing in New Zealand, airline officials said Wednesday.

U.S. experts suggested the objects probably were meteors burning up in Earth’s atmosphere and questioned Australian media reports that they likely were pieces of a falling Russian spacecraft.
The LAN Chile airline said in a brief statement that the pilot, who was not identified, “made visual contact with incandescent fragments” several miles away Monday. The Airbus 340 had just entered New Zealand airspace when the space debris was spotted.

But Nicholas Johnson, orbital debris chief scientist for NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said that likely was not the case. Russian space junk was expected to come back to Earth — but not until about 12 hours after the incident with the jet.
Johnson said he checked with the Russians, and the debris — an empty Progress resupply ship that had been at the international space station — re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on schedule.
“Unless someone has their times wrong, there appears to be no correlation,” Johnson told The Associated Press.

Nearly 300 Million meteors hit earth everyday, Bill Ailor, director of the Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies at the Aerospace Corporation of El Segundo, Calif.
added that about 50 meteoroids actually enter the Earth’s atmosphere , mostly burning up as they speed toward the planet, he said
Those that survive and hit the ground are called meteorites. By contrast, about 150 pieces of man-made space junk fall back to Earth each year

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