A Chinese space station is hurtling toward Earth -- here's how to track the crash as it happens

ShutterstockAn illustration of a satellite damaged by space debris.
  • A falling Chinese space station dubbed Tiangong-1 will soon break up into chunks in the atmosphere and crash to Earth. It will likely go down on Sunday.
  • Scientists say it is nearly impossible to determine the exact time and location of the station’s crash.
  • But you can follow along as it descends using sites from SatView, the European Space Agency, and more.

On Sunday, a Chinese space station called Tiangong-1 is expected to crash to Earth.

The 9.4-ton spacecraft went up into space in 2011, but in 2016, the Chinese government lost communication with it due to an apparent technical malfunction.

It’s difficult to predict exactly when Tiangong-1 will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, and where it will break up into pieces before it lands. On Monday, the space station was at an altitude of about 130 miles. It has been falling more than a mile every day since then, and its rate of descent is also accelerating.

The exact location of the impending Tiangong-1 crash is still a mystery, but it will likely hit somewhere 42.7 degrees north or south of the equator. The chances of Tiangong-1’s re-entry are slightly higher in New Zealand, Tasmania, the northern states of the US, northern China, the Middle East, central Italy, northern Spain, and parts of South America and southern Africa.

If you’d like to track Tiangong-1 as it falls, there are several sites you can check:

As of Sunday afternoon, Tiangong-1 should reenter Earth’s atmosphere on April 1 at 8:10 p.m. ET (give or take 2.5 hours), according to the Aerospace Corporation.

Aerospace’s map, seen below, shows the station’s approximate location in its orbit (as of Friday afternoon):

Chinese space station crash mapThe Aerospace CorporationA map of Tiangong-1’s orbit and current location as of May 30 at 3 p.m.

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