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NASA Space Science

New Images of Tumbling US Satellite From Theirry Legaullt 100

Posted by timothy
from the steady-hands dept.
The BBC reports that "An amateur astronomer has recorded images of the out-of-control US satellite as it tumbles back to Earth. Theirry Legault, from Paris, captured the video as the satellite passed over northern France on 15 September. The six-tonne, 20-year-old spacecraft has fallen out of orbit and is expected to crash somewhere on Earth on or around 24 September. The US space agency says the risk to life from the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) is 1 in 3,200. Mr Legault, an engineer, used a specially designed camera to record the tumbling satellite through his 14-inch telescope, posting the footage on his Astrophotography website." (Previous, equally impressive work from Legault include his photos of Atlantis's final re-entry and the ISS, sun and moon in one shot.)
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New Images of Tumbling US Satellite From Theirry Legaullt

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  • 1 in 3200? (Score:5, Funny)

    by bennomatic (691188) on Thursday September 22, 2011 @02:04PM (#37482540) Homepage
    Oh... my... GOD! Does that mean that 2.1 million people are going to die?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      1 in 3200 odds of any person in the world being hit, so basically 1 in 3200 x 7 billion gives you your personal odds.

      • 1 in 3200 odds of any person in the world being hit, so basically 1 in 3200 x 7 billion gives you your personal odds.

        I've been trying to figure out why that felt wrong since I read it from the Bad Astronomer earlier today. I think the problem is that it only counts cases where exactly one person is his by debris. There's a small but not vanishingly small chance that if one person is hit, more will be hit as well, so the real odds of an individual escape satellite doom aren't quite as good as your calculation suggests.

        • by MachDelta (704883)

          Imagine if it hit a clown car.

          Or a clown car convention!

          It would be like 9/11 times one hundred!

          Yes. Ninety-one thousand one hundred...

          • by MarkGriz (520778)

            Imaging if it knocks out power and some milk goes bad somewhere.
            I'd wager the chance of any one person dying it the ensuing zombiepocolypse is far greater than 1 in 3200.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Imagine if it hit the World Trade Center!

            Oh wait...

          • by operagost (62405)
            My calculator says 81.81...
      • Re:1 in 3200? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday September 22, 2011 @02:36PM (#37482890) Homepage

        That's still orders of magnitude higher than ANY terrorist threat, why isn't the country in a massive panic?

    • by rubycodez (864176)
      Yes, if the satellite falls 7 billion times
  • From TFA:

    UARS could land anywhere between 57 degrees north and 57 degrees south of the equator - most of the populated world.

    Cool, I'll just drive a mile or two north, then.

  • How soon before pieces of it show up on eBay?

    My prediction: pieces are already on eBay, because they are fake, as will be most of the pieces after it lands as well.

    • selling a real piece on eBay would be moronic, it would be like putting the real Mona Lisa up there. You sell your Mona Lisa through a dealer, not eBay.

      • I thought you had to first break into the Louvre in some overly convoluted scheme and then you would be stuck either sitting on it until the statute of limitations runs out, or selling it on the black market. I would say that people would try and sell actual pieces of it on eBay as you can find almost anything on there and it does reach a broad audience.
        • All you have to do is convince the buyer that you have stolen the Mona Lisa, and the one still hanging in the Louvre is a fake. Cut the power and water, close the museum to the public for a few days, then save the newspaper article about the temporary closure for repairs. Of course they aren't going to publicize the real story that they were robbed. Make sure to decide ahead of time if you put up the fake that is now on display, or if they put up a fake as part of the coverup.

          And while you are at it, sel

  • These aren't "new", they're the same images that were floating around last week -- they're from the 15th, for heaven's sake!

  • since mobile devices have GPS. couldn't an app be written that would receive the latest information from NASA. as they get more info, they push it to the app. i f you are worried about getting hit, you install the app and monitor it. If you are in with X meters/feet of latest estimate, you get notified or your app makes a sound.

    how hard is that to do? i would do the app part for android, but the data would have to be fed from a credible source.

  • by popoutman (189497) on Thursday September 22, 2011 @02:26PM (#37482770) Journal
    Thierry Legault has done some wonderful captures of satellites as they've gone overhead. It's interesting to see the slow tumble of this particular satellite, which confirms that it's pretty much out of action (even though we already know that). Apparently the satellite had a possible minor collision with debris in 2007 (see page 15 of 52 of http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/nwgs/securing-the-skies-full-report-1.pdf [ucsusa.org] ) which is the likely reason that this satellite is tumbling.
  • by rossdee (243626) on Thursday September 22, 2011 @02:40PM (#37482936)

    "The six-tonne, 20-year-old spacecraft has fallen out of orbit"

    Not yet. It is still in orbit, though a rapidly decaying one due to atmospheric drag.

    "and is expected to crash somewhere on Earth on or around 24 September"

    Its pretty much certain that it is going to crash on earth. There is no chance of it hitting any other planet.

  • wtf does 24 September mean
  • by Stele (9443) on Thursday September 22, 2011 @02:59PM (#37483136) Homepage

    Shit! It's 56 today so I'm safe but tomorrow it's supposed to hit 58 and 60 on Saturday! I wish the pieces were landing today - could be a close call.

  • Why no sound? Don't all objects about to die a fiery death in atmosphere make those "whooosh" sound? In films everything in space makes some sound...

  • It looks like a screen saver for a tiny LCD. Very low resolution.

  • "Experts say that a recent expansion in the Earth's atmosphere due to heating by ultraviolet radiation has been causing UARS to fall to Earth faster than expected."

    So is this a backhanded endorsement of anthropogenic global warming or admission that it's the sun's fault?

    • by geekoid (135745)

      No, it's an example of the fact you don't know what global warming is.

      • by xdor (1218206)

        Right, the greenhouse effect in a planetary body: trapped solar radiation hypothetically due to atmospheric particulate resulting in an increase in temperature on the planet's surface.

        But why haven't we heard anything about atmospheric expansion before? Is the atmosphere of the planet actually reaching further into space? If this claim by NASA is proven: why not present that? Forget all the ice core samples and temperature readings: just show that the atmosphere is now so many miles higher than it was in

        • by mikael_j (106439)

          Right, it's NASA spinning this.

          NASA tries to explain the situation and happens to mention some random fact which goes against your "MY HUMMER IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANYTHING BAD EVER!" dogma and you immediately go into spin-mode.

          Or maybe you're just trolling...

          • by xdor (1218206)

            Anthropogenic global warming aside: is NASA's explanation reasonable?

            A satellite launched in 1991 with an apogee of 575km degrades orbit early, and NASA cites unexpected atmospheric expansion.

            If atmospheric expansion has done this to a satellite launched just 20 years ago: should we not expect a veritable shower of near-earth vehicles? It seems reasonable that such a global characteristic would exert its influence on more than just this one satellite.

            Perhaps describing NASA's reasoning as spin is mildly h

    • 'We' (human activity) emits infrared radiation (heat) and carbon dioxide (which traps infrared emitted by the Sun). If the source of heating you mentioned is indeed ultra-violet then it'll come from the Sun and would be above and beyond what we're doing.
  • Standard operating procedure is to reserve enough fuel so that the satelite can be safely deorbited or pushed up to a safe parking orbit (common for geosync) at end of life. What happened here?

    • by popoutman (189497) on Thursday September 22, 2011 @04:14PM (#37483970) Journal
      To my knowledge, the amount of fuel remaining was used to guarantee that it would re-enter sooner rather than later (a 25kg of fuel burn was executed at the end of 2005). There were plans mooted to recover the UARS using the Shuttle, but this fell by the wayside with various budget cuts and safety concerns. It appears that there was no need to have de-orbit fuel kept when the shuttle was the recovery vehicle, and when the plans fell through there wasn't enough fuel left to de-orbit in a known manner. The advantage of using the fuel in hte meantime allowed a few more years of data gathering. The working altitude for UARS was never going to have a safe parking orbit, and the orbit of the ISS was close enough in 2010 that an avoidance manouevre was needed to reduce the possibility of an impact. The spacecraft was left in a known stable attitude, but as the tumbling has shown, there has been an outside influence to cause this level of rotation. Maybe a pebble-sized item collided, and this is what's causing the tens-of-seconds wobble.
  • Is Theirry Legault really an "amateur" at this point? I believe he makes plenty of money from this now.

  • It's a shame NASA doesn't have control over the reentry point. They could fix that budget cut in no time. "Why yes, Senator, I'm sure that doubling our budget would be enough to prevent the satellite from landing on your summer home..."

  • The gentleman's name is Thierry, not Theirry. Bad enough to get it wrong in the article, but in the headline?

    It matters not that others have misspelled his name. Is that our standard for quality? Fourth-graders pointing at each other saying "well that's how BEEB did it!"?

    Oi.

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