According to the European Space Agency (ESA), silent solar activity has pushed back reentry time for China's falling Tiangong-1 space station.
It is expected that the doomed Tiangong-1 will fall to the ground around 19:25. EDT (2325 GMT) on Sunday (April 1), with a window that could extend into early Monday, officials from the ESA Space Debris Office said today (March 31). US analyst group Aerospace Corp., which also tracks Tiangong-1, predicts that Tiangong-1
The time for the uncontrolled descent of Tiangong-1 remains highly uncertain, largely due to the calm of the sun. When the sun is active, its energy pushes more against the earth's atmosphere. The atmosphere then rises and becomes denser at higher altitudes. The density of the atmosphere influences the resistance to the rotational speed of Tiangong-1. As Tiangong-1 loses energy due to air resistance, it falls toward the earth.
"ESA's space debris team has adjusted its reentry forecast over the past 24 hours to take account of low solar activity conditions, further confirming that the forecast window will be postponed to a later date on April 1," ESA said -Official in an update from 5:00 pm EDT (0900 GMT).
"The team now forecasts a window at 23:25 UTC April (01:25 CEST April 2) and runs from the afternoon of April 1 until the early morning of April 2. That remains very variable."
Tiangong-1 predicted reentry Time has been repeatedly adjusted in recent days because the sun was quieter than expected, the ESA added. "A high-speed beam of particles from the sun that should reach Earth and affect the planet's geomagnetic field actually had no effect, and now a quieter space weather is expected around the Earth and its atmosphere days," it said.
China launched Tiangong-1 in 2011 and remained active for five years. It housed two astronaut crews and an unmanned docking mission. The Chinese manned space engineering bureau, which oversees the country's human spaceflight missions, lost contact with the station in 2016. Since then, the 9.4-ton (8.5 tonne) module naturally falls toward the earth.
In 2016 China launched a successor space station called Tiangong-2, which is still active today.
Tiangong-1 orbits the earth with a dip between 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south latitudes, so theoretically any location on this path could fall. This strip of geographic expansion includes much of the populated world, including the United States.
However, the chances of a single location being hit are negligible, even worse than winning the Powerball jackpot. While Tiangong-1 is likely to produce spectacular fireballs during his descent, astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell of Harvard University predicts only 220-440 pounds. (100 to 200 kg) will make it to the surface.
Debris from space sometimes causes interesting falls on the surface of the earth. The most famous example was NASA's Skylab Space Station, which unexpectedly threw parts into rural Australia after the agency tried to channel them to the ocean.
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