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Mysterious space ball landed in Namibia

Avatar of inke inke - 14. décembre 2018 - Discover Namibia

The ‘space’ ball that landed in north-western Namibia. (Photo: Namibia Forensic Science Institute)

Brigitte Weidlich

It was four days before Christmas - the “dry season” for newspapers – and media houses had a hard time finding stories. A sudden invitation by the Police command in Windhoek to a press conference about a ‘strange object’ that had landed in northern Namibia turned matters around instantly.

Surprised at the ‘full house’ - every reporter worth his or her salt attended the press conference - the Police Deputy Inspector General dropped the bombshell: “An unknown round metallic ball of about one metre in diameter has fallen out of the sky in north-western Namibia’s rural area near Outapi in the Omusati Region. The object was investigated and found to be of no danger,” he said. “I now hand over to Dr Paul Ludik, Director of the National Forensic Science Institute [of the Namibian Police].” 

All eyes were set on Ludik, cameras clicked, pens were ready, recording devices were set in motion. “Locals and officers of a nearby police station and villagers in the area heard several small explosions some three kilometres away and five days later found a round, spherical metal object of 1.1 metre in diameter weighing some six kilograms and it is hollow,” Ludik said. 

Wow, a round ball dropped from outer space - a prefect story to report! 

“The object was found near Onamatango village close to Outapi, some 750 kilometres northwest of Windhoek. No human or animal was injured as the object dropped on an open piece of land,” the forensic chief continued.

“After villagers informed the police station and those officers notified the Police headquarters in Windhoek, a forensic team was dispatched,” Ludik added. “We found the landing spot of the object – a hollow of 33 centimetres deep in the soft sandy soil -- some eighteen metres way from the round object. The hollow or small crater was some 3.8 metres wide.”

“The ‘space ball’ is 35 centimetres in diameter and appears to consist of “two halves welded together in the middle, it appears to be hollow”, Ludik added. “The metal ball consists of metal alloy known to man.”

What a sensation! 

Ludik would however not reveal more. A hail of questions descended on the Police Deputy-Commander. “Is the space ball here, can we see it and take photos? Can it be touched? Is it part of a rocket, a satellite or a space station?”

No, the ‘space ball’ was at a safe place and could not be presented to the media – only at a later stage. “We contacted the NASA space agency in the US and the European space agency (ESA)”, the journalists were told. 

Ludik added that some internet research brought to light that several such space metallic balls had dropped in southern Africa, Australia and Latin America over a span of the past 25 years or so. 

The photo provided by the Police showed a fascinating, slightly spherically shaped object.

As soon as the story hit the electronic media the same day, it spread like wild fire internationally: a perfect magical story just before Christmas, which caught the imagination of many readers across the globe. Namibia was in the lime light. Even the Washington Post found the story newsworthy, albeit with a hint that space balls dropping on Mother Earth were relatively common. Some had dropped in Australia, Latin America, Saudi Arabia and Spain.

Indeed, the internet reveals many similar incidents, and each time they cause a sensation – though also a bit of panic for nearby locals when they fall out of the sky. The Namibian incident happened in November 2011, but was only made public on 21 December that year. 

Theodore Solomons discovered this space ball on a farm near Worcester in the Western Cape Province, South Africa in April 2000. (Photo: Enver Essop)

Space objects could be tanks from satellites

Scott Hull, an orbital space debris expert in Maryland, USA, noted that the space ball found in Namibia was probably made from titanium and thus survived the re-entry from space into the Earths’ atmosphere. It could be a hydrazine tank from an unmanned rocket, commonly used in space satellite launches. 

In April 2000, a metal ball similar to the one in Namibia was discovered in neighbouring South Africa, with a mass of 32 kilogrammes. A boy, Theodore Solomons, living on a farm near Worcester found it. Investigations revealed it was made from titanium. A second ball dropped out of the sky a day later, some 50 km outside Cape Town. Astronomers noted that they could be parts of a disintegrating satellite. 

In 2007, a severely damaged metallic sphere was found in Australia. In November the same year, three mysterious metal balls fell from the sky onto Spain's southeast looking very similar to those found in South Africa and Australia. In 2008, a similar looking metal ball was discovered in Brazil.

In 2011 a ball from outer space landed in north-western Namibia.

And not too long ago, in January 2016 the military in South Vietnam investigated the appearance of three mysterious metal balls believed to be debris from space - which landed in the country's rural north.

Two metal balls were discovered in northwestern Yen Bai province on 2 January 2016 and a few days later a larger, third ball weighing some 45 kilogrammes landed in a maize field. According to the locals, loud noises were heard first and then the metal balls fell from the sky, scaring the people.

By the way – the space ball that dropped on Namibia was never shown to the media (as was promised) and might have been moth-balled somewhere in the vaults of the Police head quarters or quietly shipped to NASA in Houston, Texas. 

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