Space Debris Almost Hits Jet in Flight... Mar 28, 2007 22:54:56 GMT -6
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Mar 28, 2007 22:54:56 GMT -6
Flaming space junk narrowly misses jet
Pieces of space junk from a Russian satellite coming out of orbit narrowly missed hitting a jetliner over the Pacific Ocean overnight.
The pilot of a Lan Chile Airbus A340, which was travelling between Santiago, Chile, and Auckland, New Zealand, notified air traffic controllers at Auckland Oceanic Centre after seeing flaming space junk hurtling across the sky just five nautical miles in front of and behind his plane about 10pm last night.
According to a plane spotter, who was tuning into a high frequency radio broadcast at the time, the pilot "reported that the rumbling noise from the space debris could be heard over the noise of the aircraft.
"He described he saw a piece of debris lighting up as it re-entered (the earth's atmosphere).
"He was one very worried pilot, as you would imagine.
"Auckland is talking to (an) Aerolineas Argentinas (pilot) who is travelling (in the) opposite direction at 10 degrees further south asking if they wish to turn back to Auckland. "They have elected to carry on at the moment.
"(It's) not something you come across everyday and I am sure the Lan Chile crew will have a tale to tell."
A spokesman for Airways New Zealand, which provides air navigation services across airspace known as the Auckland Flight Information Region, confirmed the incident this morning.
He said it occurred about 10 minutes after the Lan Chile flight had entered the Auckland Flight Information Region.
Airways New Zealand had been warned by Russian authorities almost two weeks ago that a satellite would be entering the earth's atmosphere sometime today between 10.30am and midday NZ time (6.30-8am WA time).
Airways New Zealand then provided that information to airlines and pilots that would be travelling in that region at that time.
They could then decide for themselves whether they wished to fly during that period.
"But clearly there has been a timing issue," the spokesman said.
"Either the time that was indicated to us was incorrect or the satellite de-orbited early."
Because the timing was wrong, the coordinates of where the satellite was supposed to enter the Earth's atmosphere also turned out to be incorrect.
A formal report about the incident has been logged and recordings of conversations between the pilot and air traffic controllers were expected to be handed over to investigators in the next few days, he said.
The Lan Chile flight landed safely at Auckland Airport early this morning, he said.
It's quite interesting that the pilots heard the "rumble" of the re-entering debris.