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WEEKEND Outofcontrol space station fiery crash to Earth

Issued: 2018-03-30

By Afp and Joe Pinkstone For Mailonline

Published: 10:30 EDT, 29 March 2018 | Updated: 12:16 EDT, 29 March 2018

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Out-of-control Chinese space station, Tiangong-1, is predicted to reenter Earth's atmosphere at 11:30am BST (6:33am ET) on Easter Sunday.

The space craft is carrying highly toxic chemicals and could crash into a number of highly populated areas, researchers claim.

Areas that could be hit include New York, Barcelona, Beijing, Chicago, Istanbul, Rome and Toronto.

When the station does eventually enter the atmosphere it could unleash a 'series of fireballs' that will be seen by observers.

Scientists still do not yet know where the satellite fragments are likely to land.

The latest prediction comes from Aerospace engineering, who claims the time for reentry could be anywhere within 16 hours either side of this.

The European Space Agency (Esa) is also tracking the space stations gradual descent.

Due to its gentle descent, Tiangong-1 is now experiencing significant drag as it brushes against the planet's denser outer atmosphere and it is dropping out of orbit by about 2.5 miles a day.

When Tiangong-1, Chinese for Heavenly Place, reaches an altitude of about 43 miles above the surface, it will begin its re-entry.

Agencies around the world who have monitored an out-of-control Chinese space station's fall to Earth believe it has a higher chance of hitting parts of the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Cities at higher risk include Barcelona, Beijing, Chicago, Istanbul, Rome and Toronto

This image of the Chinese Space Station was taken over a two second exposure and from the Virtual Telescope Project live feed. The space station was travelling at 18 degrees a second across the sky

When it reaches this point, Markus Dolensky, of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, told CNN that observers on Earth will potentially see 'a series of fireballs streaking across the sky'.

'It is now nearing its fiery demise,' he added.

This will only happen if conditions are clear, however.

The dramatic reentry will be unmissable, but keen astronomers are keeping their eyes peeled for Tiangong-1 throughout its final days.

Yesterday, a live stream was set up by Virtual Telescope Project to capture Tiangong in one of its final passes across the sky.

It is visible to the naked eye and can be seen by people living in mid-latitude areas in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere.

Like many satellites and the ISS, Tiangong-1 looks like an unblinking white light gliding swiftly across the sky.

Predicting when and where the rogue station will reach the surface is extremely difficult as it orbits the Earth at around 18,000 mph (29,000km/h).

To track the satellite, experts are using some of the most advanced and powerful telescopes in the world.

At the Fraunhofer Institute scientists can track Tiangong-1 using radar (pictured). Radar allows the institute to watch the station regardless of the weather, or if it is day or night

At the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques, scientists were recently able to capture images of the craft using radar imaging.

Commissioned by the ESA, Fraunhofer researchers are studying the speed of the satellite and its rotation.

The tracking and imaging radar system uses signals in the Ku-band (12 to 18 gigahertz) and I-band (100 – 150 megahertz) radio frequencies to follow Tiangong-1.

Radar allows the institute to watch the station regardless of the weather, or if it is day or night.

Fall of Chinese space station Tiangong-1 over time and potential landing spots and times. The odds of being struck by space debris at one in 1.2 trillion. That is roughly 10 million times less likely than getting hit by lightning

In a statement, Esa aid: 'The Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up.

'It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface.'

According to experts tracking the station at the European Space Agency (ESA), it has the highest chance of crashing along a narrow strip around latitudes of 43 degrees north and south.

This includes a number of highly populated cities including New York, Barcelona, Beijing, Chicago, Istanbul, Rome and Toronto.

There is a chance parts of the station containing hazardous hydrazine could plummet into these highly-populated area.

Hydrazine is a chemical which is included in rocket fuel that causes irritation of the eyes and throat, dizziness and can lead to the growth of cancerous tumours.

The chances of human injury are small, claims Stijn Lemmens, an ESA space debris expert based in Darmstadt, Germany.

China's out-of-control space station will crash into Earth over Easter weekend, according to the European Space Agency. Pictured in blue is the craft's observed path while red shows its predicted time of impact with Earth

'Over the past 60 years of space flight, we are nearing the mark of 6,000 uncontrolled reentries of large objects, mostly satellites and upper (rocket) stages,' he told AFP.

'Only one event actually produced a fragment which hit a person, and it did not result in injury.'

Mr Lemmens says the odds of being struck by space debris are at one in 1.2 trillion.

Scientists will only know the precise date Tiangong-1 will impact and exactly where debris will fall during the finals days of its decline. Pictured is a graph showing how the window of predicted impact dates (y-axis) has changed over time (x-axis)

That is roughly 10 million times less likely than getting hit by lightning.

Although nobody has ever died from being hit by space junk falling back to Earth, one Australian region did fine Nasa $400 for littering when its Skylab crashed around the town of Esperence in 1974.

'At no time will a precise time/location prediction from ESA be possible,' the agency's Space Debris Office, based in Darmstadt, Germany, said in a previous statement.

The vehicle is 10.4 metres long and has a main diameter of 3.35 metres. It has a liftoff mass of 8,506 kilograms and provides 15 cubic metres of pressurised volume

Tiangong-1 is China's first Space Station Module.

The vehicle was the nation's first step towards its ultimate goal of developing, building, and operating a large Space Station as a permanent human presence in Low Earth Orbit.

The module was launched on September 29, 2012.

Tiangong-1 features flight-proven components of Chinese Shenzhou Spacecraft as well as new technology.

The module consists of three sections: the aft service module, a transition section and the habitable orbital module.

The vehicle is 10.4 metres long and has a main diameter of 3.35 metres.

It has a liftoff mass of 8,506 kilograms and provides 15 cubic metres of pressurized volume.

The Tiangong-1 space station (artist's impression) is hurtling towards Earth carrying a 'highly toxic chemical'. The doomed 8.5-tonne craft is believed to contain dangerous hydrazine

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