China’s space station could fall to Earth over Louisiana

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The 8.5-ton, 40-foot Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace," was launched in September 2011. Along with its successor -- the Tiangong-2, which launched in 2016 -- it was a prototype for China's ultimate space goal: a permanent, 20-ton space station that is expected to launch around 2022.

China’s out of control, rapidly falling space station, is looking more and more likely to fall to Earth within the next few weeks and scientists are beginning to narrow down just when and where it will happen and the Gulf Coast lies in the estimated fall zone.

No need to panic though. We may be in the estimated fall zone but so are A LOT of other folks on planet Earth. In fact, the zone is everything between 43° South and 43° North. Taking a look at the image below, you can see that we’re just a blip on the map. Most of the contiguous United States, Southern Asia, the Middle East, South America and all of Africa and Australia are included. Not to mention the vast swaths of ocean that lie in between.

Experts say they know roughly the latitude at which the craft will land, putting places like Canada and the United Kingdom in the clear.

As for when the doomed space station will finally meet its demise, it appears it will do so around the end of March or into the beginning of April. The European Space agency has narrowed down its estimation to March 30 to April 6.

But even if it does come in through the atmosphere over our area, the chances of being hit by a piece of debris are astronomically small. In fact, you’re 10 million times more likely to be struck by lightning in a given year than be struck by a piece of space debris.

The reason? The friction between the air particles in our atmosphere and the debris falling to the ground is so great due to the speed of re-entry, that most objects burn up and disintegrate before hitting the surface. Scientists expect almost all of the Chinese space station to burn up, but a few larger pieces may survive and make it to the surface.

If you’re still worried about one of these pieces, I’d suggest buying a Powerball or MegaMillions ticket. You’re one million times more likely to win one of those than be hit by the space station.

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