Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Cosmic roulette

No sooner do we hear that TV135 has been downgraded to 0 on the Torino scale - something that would embarrass the writers behind such headlines as 'Asteroid will hit Earth in 2032', were tabloid journalists capable of feeling shame - than we are alerted to a satellite falling from orbit this weekend.

The experts are keeping their options open:
Professor Heiner Klinkrad from the ESA said: "At present we can not say where the re-entry is going to happen except that it is not going to happen north of the 85 northern latitude or south of 85 southern latitude."
Which, while presumably reassuring for a number of penguins, doesn't exactly narrow it down; a shower of debris falling on a turning sphere could, in theory, make quite a mess, although those experts seem to think the chances of human casualties are remote.

The news that a ton or so of metal is about to disintegrate in the upper atmosphere provides a chance to repeat an exercise prompted by the impending abrupt descent of the UARS satellite in 2011.

Since there's not much you can do about the possibility of a 90lb chunk of steel landing on your head, you might as well amuse yourself by considering where, in an ideal world, you would like it to fall.

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