Remember that Chinese space station that was set to crash back into Earth next month? The one that China lost control of in 2016 but was not willing to talk about until recently?
It's called Tiangong-1, and it measures in at 34-feet long, 11-feet wide and nearly 19,000 pounds. While the idea of something like that falling from space may seem a bit scary, the truth is the odds of you being injured by its debris are very, very small.
Still, the idea of pieces of a space station raining down from above is at the very least a little worrisome, if not kind of cool. So, if you are in one of the locations expected to be in Tiangong-1's path between March 30 and April 6, when it is expected to crash down, you may be in for a surprise.
A wide range, narrowed down
Experts have been monitoring it to try and determine not just when it will return, but where. Not only have they narrowed the date down to a week, but they've placed its most likely landing area along a strip around latitudes of 43 degrees north and south.
It could land anywhere in between, but that is not likely.
While that may seem like a wide swath of land to cover, its likely landing spots have to do with the fact that the station is traveling along a circular orbit with a path that is parallel to the equator. It looks like a wavy pattern on a map.
Of course, no one can be sure of where it will land until about the time it does, but the expected landing path runs through these American cities:
|New York||New York|
|Sioux Falls||South Dakota|
It could also end up in, among other places, Barcelona, Cannes, Florence, Madrid, Rome or Toronto.
Even if you are in range, don't worry
While experts have a better idea of where it will land now compared to weeks ago, they are still unable to know with certainty. A clearer picture will emerge as its crash date gets closer, but that will tell them the where and when, it will not help them answer the question of "how much?"
Earth's atmosphere will do a good job of burning away most of the space station, though as of now experts say between 10 and 40 percent of it may yet make it through. Given its size, that could mean a substantial amount of debris could come hurtling down from the sky.
That said, according to experts the chances of being hit by any of it are about 1 million times smaller than winning the Powerball jackpot. So, you're probably safe. And not as wealthy as you'd like.
However, if you happen to stumble upon any of the space station parts, it is best not to touch them. The debris could contain the toxic chemical hydrazine, and coming into contact with it could cause all sorts of issues, including dizziness, headache, nausea, pulmonary edema, seizures and coma. Prolonged exposure to it could damage the liver, kidneys and central nervous system.
For more on the Tiangong-1 space station
You know the saying, "what goes up must come down?" It's of course based on gravity, inasmuch that without the ability to fly, anything that heads up toward the sky will eventually come back to Earth. With Tiangong-1 coming back to Earth, you may want to read up on what exactly it is.