12 February 2009

I don't believe this

This picture is from The Guardian 12 February 2009. The caption reads:

"A mysterious metallic object that crashed through the roof of a New Jersey family's home in January 2007 was not a meteorite after all. Scientists say it is a stainless steel alloy that does not occur in nature and is most likely orbital debris, perhaps remnants of a satellite, a rocket or some other spacecraft component".

Now come on guys, we know what space debris does. It either falls as a pile of recogniseable junk or it burns up as it descends. It does not melt into something that looks like an iron meteorite. A stainless steel object falling from a plane would not melt at all.
Stainless steel is iron with 10-20% chromium, 5-15% nickel added. Whilst all metal meteorites are iron-nickel alloys they include no chromium, hence the mystery. Chromium is mined as FeCr2O4, no nickel.
So what is it? I don't know, I merely don't think there is a likely explanation. Some phenomena don't presently have explanations, and 'scientists' shouldn't be grabbing the nearest available one and saying 'that must be it'.