Murphy's Law: It's Raining Satellites

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February 6, 2008: There have been a number of media stories of late about a U.S. spy satellite that fell out of orbit (apparently because of a failure in its maneuvering system) and is about to crash to earth. If this had not been an American reconnaissance satellite, there would have been no story, because 4-5 satellite a month fall back to earth. Since most of the planet is ocean, or otherwise uninhabited (humans tend to cluster together), and the satellites tend to come down as a few fragments, rarely is anyone, or anything manmade, hit.

Before the Internet became widely used a decade ago, you heard very little about all these injured or worn out space satellites raining down on the planet. But with the Internet, the many thousands of amateur astronomers could connect and compare notes. It was like assembling a huge jigsaw puzzle. Many sightings now formed a pattern, and a worldwide network of observers made visible the movements of hundreds of space satellites. These objects were always visible at night, sometimes to the naked eye, but unless you knew something about orbits and such, they could be difficult to keep track of. These days, a lot of the activity is posted and discussed at http://www.satobs.org/.

 


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