Space junk from a new Chinese rocket narrowly missed dropping down on New York City Monday night, according to a report, largely burning up in the atmosphere before some of the debris survived long enough to slam into West Africa.
China test-launched its new single-stage Long March 5B rocket last Tuesday, propelling its cargo into orbit before the 20-ton core eventually fell back into the atmosphere, according to Ars Technica, a technology publication.
It’s unlikely that anywhere near that large of an object is what returned to Earth -- but fragments weighing up to several hundred pounds could have survived re-entering the atmosphere, astronomer Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics told the outlet.
The U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron, which detects, tracks and identifies all manmade objects in orbit, confirmed the re-entry over the Atlantic Ocean at 8:33 p.m. PT Monday.
The doomed core passed right over New York City, Ars reported -- and if re-entry had been just a few minutes earlier, debris could reportedly have showered the Big Apple.
Instead, at least part of it fell on a town in Cote d’Ivoire, Quartz reported.
McDowell on Twitter said he could “conclude” that the objects that fell on Cote d’Ivoire “are very likely parts of the Chinese rocket stage.”