On Friday, three tons of space junk is predicted to hit the far side of the moon at 5,800 mph. Experts say the object is expected to leave a crater up to 66 feet across, according to The Associated Press.
Where is the junk coming from? The leftover space junk was originally thought to be from a SpaceX booster, according to NBC News, but researchers have recently found otherwise.
- Researchers at the University of Arizona have discovered that the space junk reflects light in a way that is consistent with that of a Chinese spacecraft, not a SpaceX booster.
- The debris is likely from a Chinese rocket that was released in 2014, but the country denies ownership of it, reports AP.
Things have crashed into the moon before, why does this matter?: Pieces of spacecraft have been hitting the moon since 1959, but this will be the first unintentional collision of manmade origin, stated Nature.
- Collisions such as these lead to more and more space junk. Currently, there are 36,500 pieces of space junk larger than four inches in size, according to the European Space Agency.
- “Once rocket boosters or upper stages get used up during a launch, they can wind up in orbit around the sun or fall back toward Earth, burning up as they re-enter the atmosphere,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
- “It’s not a SpaceX problem, nor is it a China problem. Nobody is particularly careful about what they do with junk at this orbit,” said Bill Gray, an astronomer with Project Pluto.
Will we know when the impact occurs?: Since the debris is predicted to hit the far side of the moon, the collision will be out of the view of telescopes. Details of the impact will be taken from satellite imagery, and may take months to receive any information, according to AP.