Out-of-control Chinese space station carrying toxic chemicals could crash into Earth this Sunday and Monaco and parts of Europe are among the ‘most likely’ targets.
Most of China’s broken eight-tonne space station will burn up, though there is a chance some parts will survive.
Should we be worried?
No. The chances of being hit by part of the space station are basically zero. In 1997 a woman was struck on the shoulder by an object, believed to be part of a Delta rocket. But she was not injured. She is thought to be the only person ever struck by spaceship debris.
However it is important to consider that it has the highest chance of crashing into cities along a narrow strip around latitudes of 43 degrees north and south.
This includes a number of highly populated cities including New York, Barcelona, Beijing, Chicago, Istanbul, Rome and Toronto.
It is orbiting at about 27,000km/h, so a crash site is virtually impossible to predict. It is most likely to hit these places because it is travelling parallel to the equator at the most northern and southern points of its orbit.
China has not released all the details about the design of Tiangong-1, so it is not possible to say how much of it will survive re-entry. In 2011 Nasa calculated the chance of a smaller 6.5-tonne object striking someone was about one in 3,200. That means the chance it would hit any particular person – you, for example, – is about one in 21 trillion. It is hard to imagine a more unlikely way to die.
The current re-entry estimation window of Tiangong-1 is Sunday, April 1 at 8.30pm GMT, plus or minus eight hours, according to the Aerospace Corporation.
The European Space Agency has the window centered at around 11.25pm GMT on April 1, but the variable window runs from the afternoon of April 1 to the early morning on April 2.
You can watch the Chinese space station online through a robotically controlled telescope at The Virtual Telescope Project.