March 27 2018

The Chinese Space Station Tiangong-1 is falling to Earth. It is dropping out of orbit and will gradually speed up the decrease in altitude this weekend. This is not a joke, but the predictions have it landing ‘around’ April 1.  The European Space Agency has a window of opportunity between March 30 and April 2.  Regardless, it will be close to April Fools Day, which is also Easter Sunday.

The thing is, there is a zone around the globe where it is more likely to fall and we are in it. See the map below. While the odds of being in the location for debris to hit Earth is less than 1 Billion to 1, there is a good chance we can see the burning debris as one or multiple fireballs in the sky.

Where Will It Land?

The odds of being at the location of landing are less than 1 billion to 1. But it is expected to reenter the atmosphere around 43º N or S. That is close to where we are located in the Mid Atlantic and Northeast US.  This zone extends across the northern US, southern Europe.


How Big Is It?

This 18,740 lb spacecraft is the size of a school bus, and will go out in a blaze of glory when it reenters the atmosphere and burns up. But not all will disintegrate. This will break up into larger pieces and some could remain partially intact for a ground impact as illustrated in this video. Keep watching as there is footage from NASA of ATV-1 in 2008.  This was a similar size spacecraft burning up on reentry.


Space Observing Radar

The movements and decent are being tracked by Fraunhofer FHR with ground based radar.   See the animation video comparing the space state animation below.


© Fraunhofer FHR
The space observation radar TIRA of Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques FHR in Wachtberg near Bonn in Germany.



Radar images of Tiangong-1 from different perspectives taken at an orbital height of approx. 270 km (168 miles) above the Earth’s surface
© Fraunhofer FHR




The main body and the solar panels of the space station are clearly visible.
© Fraunhofer FHR


Tiangong-1 Animation of Chinese Space Station and Fraunhofer radar image




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Also See:

My Winter Outlook 2017-2018 for more snow

Maryland Winters

La Nina Formed: What it could mean to our winter

NOAA Winter Outlook: Not The Best But Not The Worst For Snow

Two Farmers Almanacs Winter 2018 Outlooks

Winter Weather Folkore: Suggestions from Animals and Crops

First Frost and Freeze Dates For Maryland (southern PA and northern VA)

My Preliminary Winter Outlook Notes

Low Snow Winters In Baltimore: To Repeat Or Not Repeat

NOAA Ranks Blizzard 2016 4th Worst Snowstorm On Record

Blizzard 2016 Record Top Snowstorm: Area Totals

Extreme Weather of 2015 balanced out on both ends