Update: Here’s When Chinese Space Station is Set to Enter Earth’s Atmosphere
A Chinese space station hurling toward Earth is set to enter the planet’s atmosphere soon.
According to the latest forecast from European Space Agency officials, the reentry window for Tiangong 1 has shrunk.
They now predict it will reenter Earth’s atmosphere between 8 p.m. ET on Sunday and early Monday morning.
The Aerospace Corporation said that it predicts Tiangong 1 will enter the atmosphere around 9 p.m. ET (2 a.m. UTC).
The area of reentry is still unclear, although the European Space Agency said it will not happen outside of 43ºN and 43ºS.
“Areas above or below these latitudes can be excluded. At no time will a precise time/location prediction from ESA be possible. This forecast was updated approximately weekly through to mid-March, and is now being updated every day,” the agency stated in a blog post.
#Tiangong1 forecast for 1 April from ESA's Space Debris Office: the reentry window has stabilised and shrunk to the period from midnight 1 April to the early morning of 2 April (UTC time)
Read more & FAQs: https://t.co/H8NDGiUUrA pic.twitter.com/OtBA2aNGNB
— ESA (@esa) April 1, 2018
— TheAerospaceCorp (@AerospaceCorp) March 31, 2018
The abandoned space station, which weighs eight tons, isn’t considered likely to pose any danger to people but there is an “extremely slim” chance a piece of debris hits someone, according to the corporation.
“This is a big thing the size of a school bus. Most of the stuff in it will just burn up in the atmosphere,” Mordecai-Mark Mac Low, curator of astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History, told CBS.
Most of the United States is in the predicted path of the debris, although the majority of debris that doesn’t get burned up will likely land in the ocean.
“If you see a really big fireball in the sky in the next couple of days, there’s a pretty good chance you just saw it enter,” Mac Low said.
The reason the predicted path is so difficult to pinpoint? One small measurement being off can change the prediction by a large distance.
“I wouldn’t put a lot of faith in that particular number, but it will probably move around and change,” Andrew Abraham, a senior member of the technical staff at Aerospace Corp, told Space.com. “If we’re only off by a minute, it would move the location by hundreds of miles.”
Abraham said it’s still possible the station may not fall until later on April 2.