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Sputnik I, the Russian earth satellite launched on October 4, will plunge to earth sometime during the first week in January, Fred L. Whipple, director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, predicted yesterday.
Whipple made the forecast on the basis of October and November observations of the satellite and on comparison with the behavior of Sputnik's rocket, which is presumed to have fallen to earth on the night of November 30.
The rocket's supposed fall has never been definitely verified. Early in December Russia claimed that it had come down in United States territory.
Yesterday's prediction concided almost exactly with Whipple's forecast made late in October when he said that the satellite would probably fall about a month after the rocket.
Whipple reported that Sputnik's period of revolution (the time it takes to circle the earth) is currently 91.2 minutes, and is speeding up at the rate of five to eight seconds a day. When its period reaches 88 minutes per revolution the satellite will plunge to its death.
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