German Satellite Expected To Hit Earth This Weekend
The satellite has about a one in 2,000 chance of hitting a person, the Aerospace Centerestimated. While still unlikely, these odds are significantly higher than those of last month's falling NASA satellite, which only had about a one in 3,200 chance.
Scientists expect ROSAT to break into about 30 pieces, the largest weighing up to 1.7 tons. It could fall anywhere between the latitudes of Dublin and the southern tip of South America.
ROSAT has been orbiting Earth since 1990.
From the German Aerospace Center:
When the spacecraft re-enters the atmosphere at a speed of approximately 28,000 kilometres per hour, the X-ray observatory will break up into fragments, some of which will burn up by the extreme heat. The latest studies reveal that it is possible that up to 30 individual pieces weighing a total of 1.7 tons may reach the surface of the Earth. The largest single fragment will probably be the telescope's mirror, which is very heat resistant and may weigh up to 1.7 tons.
The time and location of re-entry cannot be predicted precisely. At present, scientists expect the X-ray satellite, which completes an orbit around Earth in about 90 minutes, to re-enter around between 22 and 23 October 2011. Currently, the re-entry date can only be calculated to within plus/minus two days. This time slot of uncertainty will be reduced as the date of re-entry approaches. However, even one day before re-entry, the estimate will only be accurate to within plus/minus five hours.
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