The Coming Demise of Tiangong-1
Map showing the probability of re-entry latitude of the Tiangong 1 space station. Degrees of latitude in red are most likely (4%), degrees of latitude in green are least likely (<1%). Areas not shown on the map are outside of the possible re-entry latitudes. Courtesy Ahecht, via Wikimedia Commons.
The world is watching during the final days and hours of the Tiangong-1 space station’s life. We’re all waiting to see where it will finally fall. The station put into orbit by the Chinese space agency in 2011, is slowly losing altitude as it circles Earth. The best predictions (from such places as Aerospace.org) suggest it will make a blazing re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere around 4:305 UTC on April 1. The margin of error is plus or minus 24 hours. Realistically, that means it will re-enter anytime from 4:30 UTC on the 30th to the same time on the 2nd of April.
Predicting where Tiangong-1’s pieces will impact the planet is difficult. Based on its orbit and where it will start to break up, experts are saying that it could fall to Earth along a fairly long orbital track. It could be anywhere from about 42 ...