Two satellites are on a possible collision course over Pittsburgh, the CBS station there reports. What is hoped to be a near-miss will happen Wednesday evening directly above the city — 900 kilometers high, to be exact.
LeoLabs, which tracks space debris, put out the alert along with a visualization of the event — and it’s going to be very close.
LeoLabs predicts that the two satellites will pass within 15 to 30 meters of one another just after 6:30 p.m.
One satellite is roughly the size of a trash can, about 10 pounds. The other is the size of a small car. They’re headed straight for each other at more than 10 times the speed of a bullet.
“These are actual spaceships that could collide in space. … They’re unmanned and they’ve been not operational for a while,” said Ralph Crewe, who’s with the Bulh Planetarium and Observatory of the Carnegie Science Center.
The odds of the two satellite actually colliding are around one-in-100.
According to LeoLabs, one of the two satellites is a decommissioned space telescope that was launched in 1983 and the other is an experimental U.S. payload that was launched in 1967.
Crewe brought CBS Pittsburgh’s cameras up to the roof at the Carnegie Science Center to talk about what this means for Pittsburghers on the ground.
“It’s not guaranteed that it’s going to collide, but if it does, any fragments that fall to Earth are going to hit the atmosphere at tremendous speed and burn up, much like a shooting star,” he says. “In fact, if you do see anything, it will look sort of like a burst of shooting stars almost.”
There’s no need to panic. If these satellites do collide, we’re not in any trouble.
“Thankfully, it is relatively safe. Nobody on Earth has any chance of taking any damage from this, so it will just be an amazing show in the sky,” said Crewe.