Experts believe the skyfall in Gujarat was caused by Chinese rocket debris
THE STEEL BALLS CAME FIRST, all five of them, one after the other. Then came bits and pieces of steel, including one that looked like a “ruler.”
The sky is falling — literally — in a slew of villages in central Gujarat. On Thursday night, three steel balls were dropped on the villages of Bhalej, Khambholaj, and Rampura. They had been adopted by steel fragments, one of which was thought to have fallen on a sheep pen in a farm, killing a lamb.
Nobody has yet gotten a handle on what’s been going on. Gujarat officials claimed that an ISRO team had collected samples, but the premier space agency declined to comment.
So far, the only plausible clue has come from a Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics astronomer who tweeted that this could be particles from a Chinese language launch rocket’s “re-entry of the third stage.” The first chunk — a large, black ball weighing around 5kg — fell in Bhalej around 4.45 pm on May 12, followed by two more in Khambholaj and Rampura, all within 15 kilometres of each other in Anand district.
Even though the local police had been called in, the same ball fell in Chaklasi village in the neighbouring Kheda district on May 13, followed by another in Vadodara’s Savli taluka. A day later, villagers in Kasor, Anand’s Sojitra taluka, reported that a fragment “resembling a ruler” had fallen on a farm and killed a lamb. On Monday, police obtained the same name from Khodiyarpura, which is located in the same taluka.
According to police, the objects landed mostly in empty areas, some on mud heaps. In each case, they’ve launched investigations and enlisted the help of forensic experts.
The particles could be the “re-entry of the third stage from the Chang Zheng 3B serial Y86 launch rocket,” astronomer Jonathan McDowell tweeted on May 12. On September 9, 2021, the rocket launched, carrying a 5,500-kg communication satellite to geostationary transit orbit. McDowell told The Indian Categorical that he was determining the particles based on monitoring data, which confirmed that this object was “the only reentry that day (Could 12) that went anywhere near India.”
“The expected path was a few hundred kilometres north of the villages in question,” he said, “but that’s within the uncertainties for this specific object because its orbit was more erratic than usual.”
He stated that the orbit was rapidly changing due to atmospheric drag, which could cause a shift in the predicted floor location.
“We’ve sent all of the objects, including the steel spheres that fell last week, to the Bodily Analysis Laboratory (PRL) of ISRO,” Anand District Collector M Y Daxini said. They’ve gathered all of the information and are now analysing it.”
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