MARTY RUSSELL: Keep watching the skies for Baptists, satellites

By Marty Russell

Fall is Friday. Better run for cover.
Oh, sure, the fall equinox is Friday. At exactly 4:05 a.m. The sun will cross the equator heading south for the winter, at least winter here in the Northern Hemisphere. That means absolutely nothing for us here in Mississippi where it won’t start cooling off for at least a couple of more months.
But there’s another fall expected Friday. Sometime between Thursday and Saturday, most likely sometime Friday, a 6.5-ton, 20-year-old research satellite known by the unusually generic, by NASA standards, name Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, is expected to fall to Earth. Unfortunately, no one can say exactly where it will fall.
Too bad there’s not another presidential debate scheduled for Friday.
Scientists say most of the satellite will burn up in the atmosphere but at least 1,200 pounds should survive and hit the Earth with the largest surviving chunk weighing in at 300 pounds. Traveling at 5 miles a second that could really ruin your day.
Because of its orbit about all trackers can say is that it will fall somewhere between 57 degrees North latitude and 57 degrees South. That’s pretty much the entire planet except for the poles. Lucky penguins.
Debris from the crash could be scattered along a path about 500 miles long, the experts say, and they warn people not to touch it if they come across pieces not because it’s dangerous or might be harboring an alien life form like Charlie Sheen but because it belongs to the federal government. The feds are warning that if they see any pieces posted for sale on Ebay they’ll come down on the seller like, well, a 6.5-ton satellite.
But that’s not the only falling object news this week. Astronomers announced this week that it’s highly unlikely that the Baptists killed the dinosaurs. I, for one, find that hard to believe but scientists at the Near Earth Observation Program say new data shows the Baptistina family of asteroids, long suspected of spawning the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, isn’t old enough to have produced the dinosaur killer.
The original Baptistina asteroid, orbiting in the Main Bible, I mean Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter, probably didn’t break up into smaller pieces until around 80 million years ago. That’s not enough time, they say, for a piece to have been ripped out of its orbit and hurled at the Earth.
I’m not so sure about that. A lot can happen in 15 million years. Some of us have gone from single-celled organisms with no brains to Republicans in that amount of time. OK, so that’s not a huge stride but that’s still a long time. And, besides, the astronomers can’t point to another likely culprit for the dinosaur extinction. Except for maybe the Presbyterians.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by email at marusse1@olemiss.edu