These space cadets may run into each other.
Two old spacecrafts are hurtling toward one other and may crash above Pittsburgh Wednesday night at 6:39 p.m. eastern time, space radar company LeoLabs reports. The crafts are expected to come within at least 40 feet of one another, and there’s a one in 100 chance they will collide.
“The way the industry works today, one in 10,000 is considered noteworthy, one in 1,000 is considered an emergency event and one in 100 is extremely concerning,” LeoLabs CEO Dan Ceperley tells CNBC.
And a collision at the speed the objects are going — 43 times the speed of sound — would be catastrophic in terms of debris. Even small pieces of debris hurtling through space are deadly to anything they hit.
“If these things collide, that’s thousands of new pieces of debris and they’re going to be up there for centuries. So all of a sudden there is a huge new risk and we’ve got no way to deal with it,” he says.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commerce is tracking the crafts — one of which is a decommissioned telescope that was launched in 1983, the other an experimental spacecraft launched in 1967.
But the good news for earthlings is, if the telescope and the experiment do collide, the people of Pittsburgh may not even notice.
“This is the sort of thing that with some telescopes you could track, but not with the naked eye,” says Ceperley, adding that the debris poses no real threat as it’ll likely burn up before it reenters Earth’s atmosphere.
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