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Home / Science / Where will the debris of China's falling space station land? Here is the latest update

Where will the debris of China's falling space station land? Here is the latest update



While it's still difficult to predict exactly when and where the disastrous Chinese Tiangong-1 space station will fall this weekend, Aerospace Corp.'s latest prediction says the debris will most likely be on Sunday (April 1) in the Pacific Ocean will be descending.

Late on Friday, it was expected that Tiangong-1 would fall out of space on Sunday at 12:15. EDT (1615 GMT), give or take 9 hours. Earlier the day when the fall of the space station was predicted for 1

2 o'clock. EDT on Sunday, an expert told Space.com that earlier prediction would have seen Tiangong-1 begin its re-entry via Malaysia, and debris plagued into the Pacific Ocean. Because the space station is moving in orbit around the equator, heading north.

"It should be a show for everyone on a boat," said Ted Muelhaupt of Aerospace Corp. Space.com. He runs a center for orbital and reentry debris studies at the Californian nonprofit research organization that tracks the descent of Tiangong-1. [Track Tiangong-1! Use Our Satellite Tracker Here by N2YO]

Real-time tracking information for Tiangong-1 can be found here at Aerospace Corp.'s Center for Orbital and Debris Reentry Studies.

Mühlhaupt said, people in Malaysia can expect to see fireballs in the magnitude of the spectacular planned separation from ATV-1 " Jules Verne a European cargo freighter returning from the International Space Station in 2008. In 2015, ESA released a video of a fighter plane showing the dramatic, fiery breakup of ATV-1 over the Pacific Ocean. ATV-1 had a similar mass as Tiangong-1, which corresponds to 9.4 tons (8.5 tons).

While the amount of space debris generated by Tiangong-1 is hard to predict, about 220 to 440 lbs. (100 to 200 kg) could survive the case through the atmosphere, said Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell of the Space.com sister site Live Science. This is less material than what remained after the dissolution of the 100-tonne Skylab (1979), which unexpectedly dumped debris into rural Australia during reentry.

  China's first Tiangong-1 space station, here in It is expected that an artist's illustration will fall to Earth around April 1, 2018.

China's first Tiangong-1 space station, shown here in an artist illustration, is expected to fall to Earth around April 1, 2018.

Credit: China Manned Space Engineering Bureau

Although the Pacific Ocean is the most likely location for the demise of Tiangong-1, Muelhaupt emphasized that it was difficult to say where the station would reenter the Earth's atmosphere , The station is constantly circling the earth at a dip between 43 degrees North and 43 degrees South latitudes, which includes the United States and much of the civilized world.

"The likelihood along the ground track is over the entire length of the lane," he explained. This means that while Malaysia has the highest probability of occurrence, it has only a small peak compared to all other predicted reentry points.

At this point it is for the Aerospace Corp. more convenient to say where the station is unlikely to return; The Amazon, for example, is a "fairly safe" place, Muehaupt said. He likened the situation to trying to predict the chances of winning a lottery.

"One of the things about probability – just because you bought two lottery tickets does not mean that you have a much higher chance of winning than someone who has bought one," Mühlhaupt said. He added that the likelihood of a given location "winning" the Tiangong 1 re-entry lottery – experiencing space debris from the falling space station – is extremely low. But as geographical regions are eliminated from possible space debris, the other places on earth have a slightly higher probability of debris.

As Tiangong-1 descends closer to Earth, the predictions of its fall position will improve. No one will know for sure where the space station will go until it actually comes down. "By tomorrow afternoon, we'll probably know where it's going to be within two or three orbits," Muelhaupt said. [Chinese Space Station’s Crash to Earth: Everything You Need to Know]

  This European Space Agency map shows the area where the Chinese Tiangong-1 space station could fall (April 1, 2018).

This map of the European Space Agency shows the area where the Chinese Tiangong-1 space station could fall around April 1, 2018 (shown in green).

Credit: European Space Agency

To create its Tiangong-1 return prediction, Aerospace Corp. less than eight prediction methods. It tries to find a consensus between the models for its published estimates.

"Each [model] makes slightly different assumptions, with slightly different orbital propagators," said Muehaupt. "Depending on how the model is written, you have to make guesses about different things, each of them comes from a slightly different perspective, there's no way to model those things, so let's just run a basket and see where we think consensus is. "

For example, one of the models uses a Monte Carlo simulation – a computer simulation that shows a number of possible outcomes and the likelihood of each outcome occurring. Another model emphasizes one outcome or "truth" over all others, Muehaupt said. Some models assume that the resolution is at a slightly higher altitude than in others, which also affects the predicted case of Tiangong-1.

  An illustration of an artist from the Tiangong 1 space station breaks apart and burns in the earth's atmosphere.

An illustration of an artist from China's Tiangong-1 space station breaking apart and burning in the earth's atmosphere.

Credit: Aerospace Corporation

"We base all public statements on publicly published information, run through each of the various models, averaging outcomes, and seeking consensus," Mühlhaupt said, but even that could lead to challenges. [19659002] "Occasionally we get a model that is an outlier, for example, it could put more emphasis on a later prediction than earlier measurements … so we run multiple models, each time you think you're guessing So, it's best to get multiple opinions. "

An important predictor factor is the geomagnetic index – the amount of activity produced by the sun near Earth. Solar energy, when it hits the Earth's atmosphere, can make gases rise higher at higher altitudes and increase density. The solar activity in recent days was quieter than expected.

The sun calm delays the time of the expected reentry of Tiangong-1, because the Earth's atmospheric density near the station is lower than expected. That made a big difference to re-entry forecasts. Only three days ago, according to Muehlhaupt, Aerospace Corp. a reentry time of 2:00 GMT on April 1 (22:00 EDT on March 31) predicted. This is 16 hours earlier than the currently expected reentry time.

Tiangong-1 launched in 2011 and housed two teams of Taikonauts (Chinese astronauts) in 2012 and 2013. China then lost contact with the space station in 2016 and Tiangong Since then, -1 has fallen to earth. Tiangong-1 is the first Chinese space station, and a successor – Tiangong 2 – was commissioned in 2016.

Follow us @Spacedotcom Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.


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