A mysterious object filmed disintegrating over Earth piqued the interest of planetary defences before it was identified as a NASA satellite.
The object was first noticed by the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS), funded by NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, on the evening of August 25.
The University of Hawaii’s Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System also confirmed the sighting and, at first, experts were unable to identify it.
But it was eventually found to be NASA’s Orbiting Geophysics Observatory 1 satellite that launched in 1964.
Footage captured over the Pacific Ocean near Tahiti, in the French Polynesia, shows the 56-year-old satellite burning up fiery debris as it re-enters Earth.
The spacecraft leaves a long trail of smoke in the sky and breaks into pieces before it rains down into the sea.
In a statement, NASA said: “OGO-1 is predicted to re-enter on one of its next three perigees, the points in the spacecraft’s orbit closest to our plant, and current estimates have OGO-1 re-entering Earth’s atmosphere on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, at about 5:10 p.m. EDT [2110 GMT], over the South Pacific approximately halfway between Tahiti and the Cook Island.
“The spacecraft will break up in the atmosphere and poses no threat to our planet — or anyone on it — and this is a normal final operational occurrence for retired spacecraft.”
OGO-1 was the first satellite in the six-spacecraft OGO program launched in the 1960s and the other five have all come back safely to Earth, most recently in 2011, re-entering over various patches of ocean.
The satellite was launched to chart and study the Earth’s magnetosphere, atmosphere, the Earth’s relationship with the Moon and the impact of the Sun’s rays on the space immediately surrounding our planet.