In March, a Chinese military satellite appeared to spontaneously disintegrate in orbit, leaving a trail of debris high above the Earth.
If China knew anything, it wasn’t saying. Did the propulsion system explode? Was there a collision with some of the space junk that’s accumulating in orbit? Or did something a bit more conspiratorial happen?
The mystery persisted until last month, when an astronomer at the Center for Astrophysics announced the answer. Yunhai 1-02, as the satellite is known, collided with a piece of junk leftover from a 1996 Russian rocket launch.