China’s out of control space station Tiangong-1 is expected to hit Earth on Easter Weekend, according to the European Space Agency.
The agency’s Space Debris Office has said that the satellite will enter the atmosphere somewhere across the northern hemisphere between the dates of March 30 and April 2.
It had been previously estimated that the station would enter Earth’s orbit on April 4, and other estimates placed it as crashing on April 3.
The station is carrying on board highly toxic chemicals, so the dispersement of the satellite could result in exposure.
The dates of the crash are reportedly ‘highly variable’, and this forecast could change within the next few days.
In other news, the Skylab helmet I ordered from ebay has arrived, so I'm all ready for the Tiangong-1 reentry.
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) March 22, 2018
The ESA said in a statement:
At no time will a precise time/location prediction from ESA be possible. This forecast was updated approximately weekly through mid-March, and is now being updated every 1-2 days.
Most of the craft will disintegrate as it enters the atmosphere, but some parts will strike the Earth, some of them weighing as much as 100kg.
The highly toxic chemical contained within the rocket is called hydrazine, which can cause liver and nerve damage to humans after long-term exposure.
The cities which are most at risk are those with a latitude of 43 degrees north and south, which include New York, Madrid, Beijing, Chicago, Istanbul and Rome.
No one knows where #Tiangong1 will reenter, but we do know odds of it harming someone are vanishingly small. Our scientists calculate odds of you being hit by Tiangong-1 debris are ~1mil times smaller than odds of winning Powerball jackpot – even if you live in ‘high risk’ areas. pic.twitter.com/ic6hSl7WD6
— TheAerospaceCorp (@AerospaceCorp) March 13, 2018
Dr Hugh Lewis, a senior lecturer in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Southampton, told MailOnline:
The spacecraft is travelling around a more or less circular orbit, which is tipped with respect to the equator at 43 degrees.
If you plot this path on a map of the Earth, it produces a sine wave pattern, with the slower curve of the wave in northern and southern latitudes and the faster straighter sections running from east to west.
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Dr Lewis continued:
We can’t say precisely where as we don’t know which orbit it will come in on. At this point in time it’s very difficult to say.
If you take how far in advance you make your prediction, the rule of thumb for error is around 10 per cent.
At the moment, that’s roughly 10 days, or 160 possible orbits. If we were to predict again with a week to go, this would narrow to less than one day, or 16 possible orbits.
My expectation is, what little of the craft survives the atmosphere, will impact the ocean.
However, if you’re worried of a risk of being bonked on the head by a rogue bit of Chinese space station, then the good folks over at Aerospace have some reassuring news for you.
When considering the worst-case location (yellow regions of the map) the probability that a specific person (i.e., you) will be struck by Tiangong-1 debris is about one million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot.
In the history of spaceflight, no known person has ever been harmed by reentering space debris. Only one person has ever been recorded as being hit by a piece of space debris and, fortunately, she was not injured.
Tiangong-1 orbit now 217 x 240 km, down 2.3 km from yesterday
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) March 19, 2018
Imagine being the only person in human history to be hit my a piece of space debris, talk about bad luck.
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