Astronomy Picture of the Day

A Rocket Debris Cloud Drifts

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#99029 by @ 27.02.2007 00:00 - nach oben -
A Rocket Debris Cloud Drifts

What's that cloud drifting in space?

It's not an astronomical nebula -- those appear to stay put. Atmospheric clouds don't look like this.

The answer to last week's
sky mystery turned out to be
orbiting and expanding debris from the
upper stage of a
failed Russian rocket
that exploded unexpectedly.

The cloud became visible to unaided southern hemisphere observers,
and its cause was initially unknown.

The above time lapse movie shows the cloud drifting as seen from

Streaks in and near the cloud are likely large pieces of debris.

The debris cloud is more than an
astronomical curiosity -- particles from this
cloud and others could become projectiles
damaging existing satellites.

As the cloud disperses, many particles will fall to Earth, but many more may help make low Earth orbit an
hostile environment.

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