It’s a Satellite, It’s Some Space Junk, No, It’s a Meteor…

Feb 16, 2009 12:22pm

ABC’s Tom Johnson from New York:

If you live in Texas you can breath a little easier today.  We’re not talking smog, rather, floating junk.  Space junk to be exact.  That’s what many in the lone star state thought they were seeing yesterday when a fiery object streaked across the sky before pummeling into the earth. 

Immediately imaginations blasted off.  Was it a UFO?  How about those two satellites that collided last week?  Could this be the fallout from them?  Initially, the FAA thought it was from the satellites.  But the US Strategic Command, which tracks space junk, said not so fast. 

While the experts tried to figure it all out callers in Texas dialed up local police stations with worried inquiries.  The AP reported that one police station even dispatched a search team to look for a crashing plane.    

The US military tracks thousands of objects hurling through space, mostly junk.  A private company does all the math on whether or not any of those bits and pieces will smash into anything we care about, such as the Space Station or say a shuttle.  But who’s calculating the chances that a piece of junk will drop down and bonk someone on the head here on earth?

The odds makers say you don’t have too much to worry about that happening.  Given all the junk up there there are very few pieces that actually make it through a fiery re-orbit and the chances that any of that would actually hit someone are close to zero. 

But tell that to Lottie Williams of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  She holds the distinction of being the only human being believed to actually have been struck by falling space junk.  "Well, I was thinking I had something celestial, you know?  And here I got something man-made, you know?  And nobody knows anything about it,"  she recalled to ABC News a few years ago.  Ms. Williams was out for a walk, exercising at a local park, when a piece of space junk floated down and hit her on the shoulder.

It turns out that the object in question, yesterday in Texas, is now believed to be a meteor.  But look out.  You never know if you’ll be the next Lottie Williams.

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