Huge Piece of Space Rocket Falls From Sky and Lands on Sheep Farm

A huge piece of space debris appears to have fallen from the sky and landed on sheep farm in Australia.

On July 9, locals across the Snowy Mountains in southern New South Wales heard a bang, ABC Australia reported. It was heard for miles, by those as far away as Albury, Wagga Wagga and Canberra.

Often when a rocket is launched, parts of the craft break away from the main payload and these fall back down to Earth. Most of these pieces burn up when the hit the atmosphere. Larger pieces that make it through the atmosphere tend to land in the ocean, which makes up two thirds of the Earth's surface. But on occasion, they can hit land.

Sheep farmer Mick Miners then came across a strange, charred object on his ranch, south of Jindabyne, on July 25. "I didn't know what to think, I had no idea what it was," Miners told ABC Australia.

He found the 10 foot chunk of metal wedged into the ground in a remote part of his sheep paddock.

He was not the only one. His neighbor, Jock Wallace also found some strange debris in the area.

"I didn't hear the bang, but my daughters said it was very loud," Wallace told ABC. "I think it's a concern, it's just fallen out of the sky. If it landed on your house it would make a hell of a mess."

Serial numbers were noted on the charred, pieces of debris.

Australian National University College of Science astrophysicist Brad Tucker told ABC News that the debris is likely from the trunk section of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. The spacecraft launched in 2020, and the debris may have fallen as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere.

Tucker told ABC that is may have been the largest piece of space debris to fall in Australia for decades—the last time was in 1979, when NASA's Skylab space station fell in Western Australia.

"In photographs of the debris you can clearly see charring, which you would expect from re-entry. It is very rare to see, because they don't usually land on land, but in the ocean," Tucker said, in reference to Miners' find. "People often think they find small pieces of space junk, but they would burn up on re-entry, so it's more likely to be large pieces like this."

Rocket and sheep
A split photo shows a rocket and sheep. Alexyz3d Thomas Marx

Tucker told ABC that the bang heard far and wide was likely linked to the space junk.

This particular aircraft was supposed to land in the Pacific Ocean, however landing places can be hard to predict.

Once a spacecraft uses up all its fuel, the empty part is discarded to remove the extra weight, falling to Earth.

The finding in Jindabyne is extremely rare—according to NASA, the chances of debris hitting a populated area is extremely low. NASA has estimated that the changes of somebody being hit by debris is around 1 in 3,200.

However, with the number of rocket launches increasing, that risk is increasing. Research published in Nature Astronomy on July 11 found there is a one in 10 chance at least one person will be killed by falling space debris over the next decade.

Newsweek has contacted NASA and SpaceX for comment.