Sunday, September 25, 2011

Huge UARS Satellite's Fall From Space Captivates Skywatchers, Sparks Hoaxes

Skywatchers around the world were hoping for some unique views overnight Friday (Sept. 23), as a NASA satellite plunged to Earth on its final scorching journey through the atmosphere.

The 6.5-ton Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, or UARS, most likely pierced through Earth's atmospheric shield within 20 minutes of 12:16 a.m. EDT Saturday (0416 GMT), according to NASA officials. The agency is unable to confirm the precise time and location of the satellite's re-entry, but orbital debris scientists said that the satellite would have been flying over the vast Pacific Ocean at the time, well away from the North American coastline.

Throughout the night, rumors circulated that the defunct satellite crashed over Alberta, Canada, raining debris on the small town of Okotoks, which lies south of Calgary. Local authorities who were called to investigate later called the claims a hoax. [6 Biggest Spacecraft to Fall Uncontrolled From Space]

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