A Chinese space station hurtling towards Earth is expected to re-enter the atmosphere between 11pm tonight and 5am tomorrow, a Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist has said. Estimates vary as to when and where the 34ft long, near 10 ton space station will crash – but it is believed to smash back down to Earth sometime after 11pm tonight.
Space experts have said it has been difficult to predict its final end due to the immense speed of the craft, with tiny variations in timing meaning huge changes in location. Tiangong-1 is expected to explode into a shower of fireballs as it burns its way through the atmosphere – providing an impressive light show as it falls towards Earth.
Scientists estimate any debris that survives the fiery plunge could hit a vast span of the planet, including North America, southern parts of Europe, large parts of Asia and even Australia. Experts have described the space station’s arrival time as “highly variable” – which means there is a huge part of the planet open to witnessing the crash of Tiangong-1.
San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and New York are all the path of the space station, along with cities in south America such as Rio De Janerio. European cities including Madrid and Rome could also be in the firing line, and so will cities such as Hong Kong, Beijing and Tokyo in Asia. The furthest south it is likely to crash includes cities such as Cape Town and Sydney.
The China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) has assured people there is “no need to worry” about the possibilities of impact of Tiangong-1. It says the space station will not have a dramatic crash “like in the sci-fi movies” and inside “turn into a splendid meteor shower”. China’s space agency lost control of the space lab on March 16, 2016, when it entered the “final phase” of its five-year lifespan.