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Satellite debris entered atmosphere over southern Pacific Ocean

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 7:22 PM EDT, Tue September 27, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NASA has not received any reports of people seeing the falling debris
  • The satellite debris entered the atmosphere between Australia and Africa
  • About 26 pieces, some weighing hundreds of pounds, were expected to survive re-entry

(CNN) -- In the early morning hours Saturday, surviving remnants of a NASA satellite re-entered Earth's atmosphere over a remote stretch of the southern Pacific Ocean, the U.S. space agency said Tuesday.

Nick Johnson, NASA's chief scientist for orbital debris, said on the agency's website that the re-entry point was in the general vicinity of Christmas Island, south of Indonesia.

"It's unlikely that anyone actually observed the re-entry," Johnson said, adding that NASA has yet to receive any reports of a sighting from airplanes, ships or island inhabitants in the region.

A NASA statement on the website, labeled the final status report on the falling satellite, said it entered the atmosphere at 0400 GMT Saturday, midnight on the U.S. East Coast, over "a broad, remote ocean area in the Southern Hemisphere."

The exact coordinates cited by NASA were 14.1 degrees south latitude and 189.8 degrees east longitude (170.2 west longitude).

According to the statement, debris would have landed 300 to 800 miles northeast of the re-entry point.

The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite was launched in 1991 on a space shuttle mission and ceased its scientific life in 2005, the NASA statement said.

It broke into pieces during re-entry, NASA said, with 26 chunks weighing a total of 1,200 pounds considered likely to reach the Earth's surface.

According to NASA, space debris the size of the satellite's components re-enters the atmosphere about once a year.

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