Monday, January 28, 2008

IFOs are so much cooler...

There's going to be an IFO (Identified Flying Object) coming to earth in a few weeks, because a U.S. espionage satellite recently lost power and is slowly spiraling down out of orbit. It remains kind of unclear to me from the news coverage whether this is a planned obsolescence sort of thing or it just plain broke, but it apparently can no longer be steered and the folks who monitor such things aren't quite sure where it's going to land.

It's actually unclear (to me at least) whether much of it will really survive re-entry. What I've read indicates that it's about the size of a bus, which would make it smaller than SkyLab, which made an uncontrolled re-entry a few years ago and largely disintegrated. Legend has it some of the remnants that did make it to earth (landing in Australia) squashed a cow.

Just for fun, here's a link to Phil Plait's movie review for Star Wars Episode III. This is a total non-sequitur except that he takes time to explain exactly why stuff burns up during atmospheric re-entry. Hint: It's not friction.

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