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Mysterious Space Balls from Above

by Brian Dunning

December 22, 2011

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Donate is reporting that a mysterious metal ball has fallen from the sky and slammed into the ground in a remote area of Namibia. It created a crater 1 foot deep and 12 feet across. Despite this massive impact, the object appears to be pretty well intact.

The object is a manufactured sphere made by welding two halves together. It's 14 inches in diameter and weighs 13 pounds.

But mysterious? Hmmm, not so much. It's almost certainly a propellant tank, one of thousands in orbit, and probably separated from a satellite that's on its way down. Such tanks hold compressed rocket fuel and have to be extremely hardy, plus they're nicely shaped to survive a fall from orbit. I have not been able to find a photograph of the crater that's reported, but it seems likely that 12 feet was the size of the debris pattern. If the object struck sand or soil, it's not surprising that it left a 1-foot-deep mark and yet was not destroyed.

I hope somebody puts it on eBay.

Click here to see a picture of the object on

by Brian Dunning

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