Here’s How To Keep Track of China’s Space Station as It Plunges To Earth
Tiangong 1 is coming home—though it’s not going to be particularly welcome.
China’s dilapidated space station is falling back to earth and is expected to enter the atmosphere this weekend. And if you’re concerned about being conked on the head by space debris, there are a few ways to monitor the descent.
First, know this: You’re probably worried about nothing. The bus-sized spacecraft will largely burn up in the atmosphere—and the odds of being hit by a piece of it are fewer than 1 in 300 trillion.
But if you’re bored with the Easter Egg hunt and want to keep an eye on the station, you’ve got a few options:
The official source
China’s National Space Agency isn’t offering moment-by-moment updates on its satellite, but you can find occasional notifications. It will certainly confirm when Tiangong 1 has fallen out of orbit.
The European Space Agency is keeping tabs on the station as well, saying that the current reentry window is somewhere between Saturday night and late Sunday evening, with current thinking that it will lean more towards Apr. 1 (not, this is not an April Fool’s Joke). That’s a far cry from the early estimates of last October. And experts there say the window could change again.
There’s good news if you’re in Seattle, Montana, or North Dakota. You don’t have to worry about debris, according to the most recent re-entry area map. The rest of us? We’re still in the danger zone (along with all of Africa and Australia).
There are several experts closely monitoring the situation and keeping the world apprised via social media. Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, is being especially cheery, offering regular updates and letting us know that there’s another piece of celestial debris that’s headed our way.
The Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques is tweeting at a fairly brisk pace if you’re especially obsessive.
A real time look
Don’t care what the experts say? Want to watch the satellite plunge to earth in real time? Head over to Satview.org, which tracks the positioning of Tiangong 1 in real time. While it has an estimate on the time to re-entry, keep in mind there’s no way to know precisely when it will hit the atmosphere and when small debris might fall to earth.