Astrophysicist Brad Tucker says he often gets calls from people who think they’ve found space junk but the scorched metal found by two farmers is ‘very real’.
The Australian Space Agency is investigating space debris found in farmland in the Snowy Mountains in southern NSW, after being notified by the astrophysicist who believes it to be from a SpaceX mission.
Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at the Australian National University, says he often gets calls from people who believe they’ve found space junk – and they are normally easy to rule out. “This was different,” he said.
Tucker received a call on Thursday from two sheep farmers in the small town of Dalgety, who reported having found a scorched object. Their report matched a SpaceX spacecraft which re-entered the earth’s atmosphere at 7am on 9 July, 20 months after its launch in November 2020.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule was observed breaking apart above the area of Australia where the farmers found the debris. Its re-entry was seen and heard by people from Canberra to Bendigo, with many sharing it on social media.
Tucker drove for two hours to Miners’ farm to see if the object they had found was the unpressurised trunk of the capsule – a structure that is needed for take-off but dumped prior to re-entry.
His first impression, he said, was something that “kind of just looks like a burnt tree … and then you come up to it, it’s like this alien obelisk almost”.
Tucker says space junk is intended to land in the ocean, and it’s a “super rare” occurrence for it to land in a populated area.