How To See Chinese Space Station Tiangong-1 When It Streaks Towards Earth This Weekend

Vadim SadovskiShutterstock

The Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will plunge to Earth in this weekend, and if you’re lucky, you may get to see it pass overhead. And if the dice come up your way, the wheels on the metaphorical slot machine line up, and whatever other gambling metaphors you want to use come up in your favor, you may even get to see pieces of it burning up in the upper atmosphere, leaving burning streaks across the sky.

As Yahoo News reports, the doomed space station has been in an uncontrolled orbit for nearly two years now, and by all calculations, it will meet its fiery end beginning in the early morning of March 30, with Easter Sunday (April 1) providing what is believed to be the best opportunities to view burning space debris.

Figuring out where and when to look, however, will take some doing. Fortunately, the Inquisitr is here to help you understand the process.

For all things Space and Space Debris, you’ll need to go to the website Heavens-Above. You’ll have to log in or create an account and give the site your location. Once you’ve done that, scope out the left-hand side of the screen, and look for the words “Tiangong-1,” and click.

For reference only: for this writer, peak viewing time turns out to be 6:10 a.m. local time on March 31, where the debris will reach a projected magnitude of zero — as bright as the brightest stars (in the weird world of astronomy, the lower the number on the magnitude scale, the brighter the object is). Unfortunately, it’s supposed to rain that morning, so no dice. Also note that since the spacecraft is tumbling, its brightness will ebb and flow as it streaks across the sky.

Fortunately, if you live anywhere within (most of) the continental United States (but for a portion north of 42.7 degrees north latitude), you will likely be able to see at least some of the space station or its debris falling — weather permitting, that is.

As for actual, physical pieces of the spacecraft landing on the ground: the possibility is very real, according to LiveScience. Roger Launius, a public historian and former associate director at the National Air and Space Museum, tells the magazine that there is historical precedent for doomed spacecraft falling to earth and pieces of it landing on the ground. The only known death associated with falling space debris, according to Launius, is an Australian jackrabbit killed by falling Skylab debris in 1979.