Washington, DC – With the Virtual Telescope project, astronomers captured a wonderful photo of the misplaced missile The Long March 5 b From China, which is expected to rapidly re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere this weekend.
The one-second exposure was taken on May 6.
“By the time the photo was taken, it was a stage The missile was about 700 km away From our telescope, while the sun was only a few degrees below the horizon, so the sky was incredibly bright – these conditions made the image very intense, but we Automatic telescope “He managed to capture this huge debris,” explained Gianluca Massey, an astronomer for the Virtual Telescope project. “This is another great success, showing the incredible capabilities of our robotic facility to track these things.”
He added, “As you can see, at the bottom of the bright rocket image there is the typical CCD blooming effect, due to the intense brightness of the object.” By “CCD,” Masi refers to charging-coupled devices – the integrated circuits used in digital images. You can find more information on the effect of CCD boom here.
Massey Group, in collaboration with Bellatrix Astronomical Observatory In Italy, remote-controlled telescopes are used to observe space, discovering things like comets, asteroids, and strange bits of space garbage, Gizmodo says.
This time, the robotic system was able to capture the 30-meter Chinese Long March 5b heavy launch vehicle, which was launched on April 28. This base stage is currently out of control and is expected to enter Earth orbit again on Saturday May 8 at 10:34 PM EST (Sunday May 9 2:34 AM UTC), roughly, according to Massey.
The exact time to re-enter and where the missile might crash is unknown because, as I just said, it is literally out of control. The base stage currently orbits the planet once every 90 minutes, at speeds of more than 7 kilometers per second, which makes accurate predictions extremely difficult. In an email, Jonathan McDowell, astrophysicist at Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics“A one-hour error at the time of return is a 29,000-kilometer error at the site,” he said. Debris will likely fall mid-stage into the ocean or uninhabited areas on Earth, but danger to human life and property is unthinkable.
The missile spiraling out of control is clearly a problem. Usually, the central phases do not end in the orbit; After their charge has been pushed into space, they land in a predetermined location on Earth’s surface. In this case, the The Long March 5 b It has reached orbit and will soon return to the atmosphere at a time and place not controlled by the Chinese Space Agency. This is the second incident of its kind related to the Long March 5b march (debris from a previous central stage causing damage to villages in Côte d’Ivoire), so it is possible that the system was designed this way. It’s hard to know, given the secretive nature of the Chinese space program.
The launch on April 28 was the first of 11 planned by China, as the Long March 5b rockets would take into space the components needed to build Tianhe-1, the first Chinese space station built independently by the country. If the next 10 launches are like this, China will have to provide some explanations.
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