Namibian Mystery

A strange 1.1 meter circumfrence hollow metallic ball appears to have fallen from space, or somewhere, onto Namibia. The pertinent facts:

The hollow ball with a circumference of 1.1 metres (43 inches) was found near a village in the north of the country some 750 kilometres (480 miles) from the capital Windhoek, according to police forensics director Paul Ludik.

Locals had heard several small explosions a few days beforehand, he said.
With a diameter of 35 centimetres (14 inches), the ball has a rough surface and appears to consist of “two halves welded together”.

It was made of a “metal alloy known to man” and weighed six kilogrammes (13 pounds), said Ludik.

It was found 18 metres from its landing spot, a hole 33 centimetres deep and 3.8 meters wide.


How do we explain this? Well, there are a couple of places to start. For one, it is simply true that stuff falls on Namibia. I’m not sure if there is any official count of this, but Namibia probably has the highest frequency per land mass of notable impacts of a sufficiently recent nature to have left known craters. Part of this, of course, is the fact that if you hit Namibia with a space rock, the hole it makes will not erode or become otherwise obscured as it would be in a place with, say, water, or with plants that actually grow, and so on. Namibia’s National Rock is a a huge meteorite, one of the largest known. So this space ball is kind of run of the mill.

Another explanation that I just want to mention quickly and then dismiss, but that one must keep in the back of one’s mind: Namibia was the site of a war that went on a very long time. War junk is around and turns up now and then. It is impossible to avoid thinking of mines or other explosive thingies when hearing about “explosions” followed by a ball of metal hitting the ground.

It turns out that “space balls” have been found in before. In fact, a check of Google for “Space ball” metalic hollow yields abundant and interesting results.

It turns out that smaller but more numerous balls fell on New Zealand quite a few years ago, and were identified as parts of a Soviet rocket. They do indeed look like Hydrogen or Oxygen tanks. Maybe this ball that fell on Nambia was part of Apollo 13!?!?

Here’s a YouTube video pertaining to the New Zealand case:

Assuming reports of explosions were true and related, it is interesting to consider what that was caused by. The impact? Reentry?

Poor little Namibia. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to this:


  1. #1 djlactin
    December 23, 2011

    Mr Laden: I suggest that you change ‘1.1. diameter’ to match the description in the quote. “The hollow ball with a circumference of 1.1 metres (43 inches) … With a diameter of 35 centimetres (14 inches)”

    On Yahoo! poster $ick Na$ty identified it as a
    “104 Litre Hydrazine Propellant Tank: Model OST 31/0” but poster Timothy points out that 104[L]is too big, and opines that it’s a 39-L tank.However, if the circumferences is actually 110 cm, its maximum volume would be 22.5 L.
    In any case, it appears to be some kind of propellant container.

  2. #2 Chris P
    December 23, 2011

    In the comments thread over on BoingBoing a commenter named Morcheeba says “I’m no expert, but looks an awful lot like a helium tank from a Russian Salyut 7-Cosmos 1686 (Kosmos 1686) spacecraft assembly. Here’s one that came down in 1991:
    It perfectly matches the 3.6 feet in circumference and weighed 16 pounds instead of 13.”

    photos at that link look like a perfect match.

  3. #3 Chris P
    December 23, 2011

    Here’s the link to the BoingBoing piece –

  4. #4 Russell
    December 23, 2011

    It’s clearly part of an alien spacecraft. For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.


  5. #5 Joffan
    December 23, 2011

    Hollow space balls, Batman!

    Merry Christmas all. This is clearly a cosmic ornament.

    (Great line Russell, and so widely applicable – stolen).

  6. #6 Art
    December 23, 2011

    As I understand it hydrazine is so highly toxic that a whiff will kill you. Anyone care to enlighten me with the real world facts on hydrazine?

    Sounds to me like people might want to maintain a respectful distance.

  7. #7 Lkowalskil
    December 28, 2011

    Who is conducting a scientific investigation of this puzzling episode?

    Ludwik Kowalski (see Wikipedia) is the author of this autobiography: