Wednesday, March 28, 2007

UFO Nearly Hits Jetliner!

UFO Nearly Misses Jetliner
Flaming Objects Miss Jetliner in Air


     SANTIAGO, Chile - Pilots of a Chilean commercial jetliner spotted flaming objects falling past their plane as it headed for a landing in New Zealand, airline officials said Wednesday.

U.S. experts suggested the objects were likely meteors burning up in the earth's atmosphere and questioned Australian media reports they were probably pieces of a falling Russian spacecraft.

LAN Chile airline said in a brief statement that the pilot, who was not identified, "made visual contact with incandescent fragments" several miles away on Monday. The Airbus 340 had just entered New Zealand airspace when the space debris was spotted.

The airline said it reported the incident to authorities in Chile and New Zealand.

Web sites of several Australian news media quoted officials as saying that pieces of a Russian satellite had narrowly missed the jet.

But Nicholas Johnson, orbital debris chief scientist for NASA's Johnson Space Center, said that was likely not the case. Russian space junk was expected to come back to Earth _ but not until about 12 hours after the incident with the jet, Johnson said.

He said he checked with the Russians and the debris _ an empty Progress resupply ship that had been at the International Space Station _ re-entered Earth's atmosphere on schedule.

"Unless someone has their times wrong, there appears to be no correlation," Johnson told The Associated Press.

About 50 meteoroids enter the Earth's atmosphere every day _ mostly burning up as they speed toward the planet _ said Bill Ailor, director of the Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies at the Aerospace Corporation of El Segundo, Calif.

Those that survive and hit the ground are called meteorites.

By contrast, about 150 pieces of man-made space junk fall back to Earth each year, with about two-thirds of it coming as unplanned entries, Ailor said.

Larger pieces of man-made space equipment, such as the Progress resupply ship, have motors to guide them back to Earth, Ailor said. If they are calculated to have more than a 1 in 10,000 chance of hitting people, they are shifted to a safer path, he said, though small errors can lead to large variations in where the debris hits.

No one has ever been killed by space junk, Ailor said, although in 1997, an Oklahoma woman was grazed in the shoulder by piece.

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