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AN outback farmer is on a mission to identify a strange ball of twisted metal - purported to be fallen space junk - which mysteriously turned up on his remote property.
James Stirton of Cheepie, 130km from Charleville in southwestern Queensland, was heading out to feed cattle on his 40,500-hectare property when he came upon the bizarre-looking blackened ball.
“It was just off the road and I had been going up there every couple of days to feed cattle so I would be surprised if it had been there more than a week,” Mr Stirton said.
Suspecting it was a piece of space junk, Mr Stirton contacted the Aerospace Corporation - a research arm of the US Government - to get some sort of confirmation.
"I know about sheep and cattle but I don’t know much about satellites,” he said.
While a spokesman for Aerospace Corp. told NEWS.com.au it was still working to identify the object, aerospace industry sources who contacted Mr Stirton believe it to be part of a rocket launched at Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 1998.
He now believes the object is a helium tank wrapped in carbon fibre
(similar to these)
from a booster rocket used to launch communications satellites.
Mr Stirton said the ball appears to have landed partially on a tree stump, making a crater a few centimeters deep before rolling about 5m to its resting spot.
“If it hit you, you wouldn’t have gotten up,’’ he said.
“We don’t get many visitors here but anyone who has seen it has either wanted to touch it or has stood back afraid that someone was going to jump out of it.
“Everybody keeps telling me that it’s probably worth a lot of money but no one’s offered me anything for it yet."
About 200 pieces of space junk – parts of satellites and jettisoned rockets – re-enter the atmosphere each year.
Most of it disintegrates but some pieces survive the enormous heat generated on re-entry and make it to the ground.
Originally posted by Shere Khaan
Looks remarkably similar to the object that reportedly fell in Brazil in this thread.
Brisbane Planetarium curator Mark Rigby was asked to examine the ball-shaped item by staff at a Charleville school after the owner of a nearby farm discovered it in a field on November 7.
He said there was "no doubt" the object, named 2006-047-C, was a helium or nitrogen tank from a rocket that had probably been used to blast a US solar satellite into space more than 18 months ago.
"I looked at what had been coming down around that time and orbits and things like that and managed to narrow the time frame based on when the farmer found it.
"This particular object was predicted for re-entry (into the Earth's atmosphere) at 11.47am Australian Eastern Standard time on November 1st, which would have put it near Indonesia.
"I don't know why, but I think it has just sort of limped on a bit and ended up in Charleville."