China's space lab set for re-entry, but where will it hit?

Tiangong-1 reentry window forecast as of 6 March Credit ESA

Tiangong-1 reentry window forecast as of 6 March Credit ESA

Dr Zhu Jin, director of Beijing Planetarium, said, however, that the chances of anyone being hit by a piece of falling debris were lower than those of winning the lottery.

After months of confusion on where and when China's 8.5-ton space station would fall back to Earth, it is finally expected to actually do so within the week according to the European Space Agency.

At the moment, the Tiangong-1 orbits over Italy roughly every 90 minutes, three to four times a day at an altitude between 220 and 220km above Earth. "Not knowing when it's going to come down translates as not knowing where its going to come down".

Speeding around our planet at about four miles per second, the uncrewed spacecraft is in a decaying orbit and out of control, tumbling through the uppermost reaches of the atmosphere.

China lost communication with the eight tonne, un-manned station in 2016, making its trajectory impossible to control and the landing site hard to predict.

If you're wondering whether you should spend the next 48 hours building a shelter, experts say the space station will fall between latitudes of 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south.

The space lab will fall back to Earth on its own, pulled down by the atmospheric drag.

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In the meantime, the upside of being within the zone that Tiangong-1 orbits is that the space station is visible from Italy.

It was launched by China's National Space Administration (CNSA) in 2011 as a prototype ahead of the Chinese large modular space station, the core module of which is expected to launch next year.

Following a meeting with the Italian Civil Protection Department, which prepares for and manages disasters, the ASI said Tiangong-1 could potentially crash around south-central Italy.

Anyone who's anyone in the field of monitoring space junk has been keeping a close eye on Tiangong-1, or "Celestial Palace 1", China's first space station.

A report by The Aerospace Corporation does highlight specific regions of the world that are more likely to see Tiangong-1's fiery demise, though. He predicted that most of it would burn up when it entered the atmosphere while the rest would fall into the sea. "That atmospheric density varies due to solar storms, other solar events, like sunspots, all kinds of things affect atmospheric density", he says.

Even so, the probability of you getting hit by the space station debris is one in a million.

The agency said: "It is highly unlikely that debris from this reentry will strike any person or significantly damage any property". There is a variety of variables that could impact the spaceport station influence.

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