The core stage of China’s Long March 5B rocket is projected to make an uncontrolled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere within hours.
The approximately 100-foot-long rocket booster, which was launched to carry a module for the country’s first permanent space station in April, is traveling around the plant at about 18,000 mph and will eventually plummet.
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The core is expected to break apart and much of it will burn up in the upper atmosphere.
However, its size is big enough for parts of it to crash to the oceans — which cover 70% of the planet’s surface — or ground, something that already happened with another Long March 5B rocket last year.
Although the object’s trajectory and path are constantly changing like a game of roulette, with weather and atmosphere density critical to monitoring its descent, scientists and government agencies are working to track its fall.
The Aerospace Corporation, a nonprofit which The New York Times says is largely financed by the federal government, has a “Reentry Prediction” page, with graphics in addition to coordinates.
The corporation’s latest re-entry prediction posted to Twitter is “09 May 2021 03:30 UTC ± 4 hours.”
In addition, the U.S. Space Command’s 18th Space Control Squadron offers daily updates on tracking site Space-Track.org.
Although the website is behind a login portal, Space-Track.org is also posting updates to Twitter.
Their latest “TIP” shows projected re-entry at ” 2021-05-09 0227(UTC) +/- 180 minutes at latitude -3.9 longitude 79.4.”
“NOTE: Still not a precise time or location, given the window; both will still vary [over] the next 12 hrs,” they wrote.
The EU Space Surveillance and Tracking service is also sharing predictions on Twitter, writing earlier Saturday morning that “the re-entry window of object CZ-5B R/B [had] narrowed down to 2021-05-09 02:11 UTC ±190 min.”
Astronomer Dr. Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has been working tirelessly to make his own predictions over the past few days.
He recently noted that the Space-Track.org, Aerospace, EU and U.S. Space Force “are now in very good agreement.”
“Based on the latest predictions: ironically, China is safe. There are passes over India, SE Asia, Australia, NZ, Mexico and Central America, northern S America, southern Europe, north and east Africa, the Middle East and the Caucasus, and two passes over the US: TX to NJ and FL,” McDowell wrote in a thread earlier this morning.
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“So to recap, the best guess window is now 2300 to 0900 UTC, or 7pm to 5am US Eastern time – it’ll be all over by the morning,” he said.
For those who want to watch the core’s path, there are several YouTube livestreams tracking the core as well.