US satellite crash threat 1-in-10,000
Manama , February 16, 2008
An out-of-control US spy satellite that is hurtling towards earth has a one in 10,000 chance of hitting Bahrain, according to an expert.
"The probability is very small and nobody is worried about it," Bahrain Astronomical Society head Dr Shawqi Al Dallal told our sister publication, the Gulf Daily News.
Space scientists around the world are anxiously tracking the object, said to be the size of a bus, which is predicted to crash into earth in the coming weeks.
The 2,270kg satellite can no longer be controlled and could contain hazardous materials, according to US government officials.
US President George W Bush has directed a warship to shoot down the satellite before it crashes to earth.
In case the US efforts to shoot it down fail, scientists predict the spacecraft will scatter debris over a several hundred mile radius, which could prove fatal if it lands in populated areas.
But the US has also pledged to compensate countries if debris lands on their territories.
Spy satellites are said to contain highly toxic hydrazine fuel, which is harmful to the human central nervous system and can be fatal in big doses.
The Bahrain University physics professor and vice-president of the Arab Union of Astronomy and Astrophysics said that while there was no immediate cause for alarm, he would be keeping an eye on the object's progress.
"Usually a small satellite will burn up completely as it enters the earth's atmosphere, but with a satellite like this there will be some debris," he said.
"The most probable location for it to fall is in the ocean because two-thirds of the globe is water.
"But since they cannot control the satellite it could fall in any place."
Dr Al Dallal says the size of Bahrain means it is highly unlikely that the satellite will land anywhere near the island.
He has calculated the odds of it landing here as one in 10,000 or 0.001 based on measuring the area of Bahrain and dividing it by the area of the earth.
"The probability is very small and nobody is worried about it. Even if the satellite comes in at a low orbit, 60-70 per cent will burn off in the atmosphere so whatever falls on the earth will be the junk." "I do not expect any damage," he added.-TradeArabia News Service