Splendid show from celestial fireball likely

BEIJING • A defunct space laboratory is set to become a celestial fireball as it re-enters Earth's atmosphere today, China's space authority said, hitting speeds of over 26,000kmh before disintegrating.

The abandoned 8,000kg, 10.4m-long Tiangong-1 is unlikely to cause damage, but its fiery disintegration will offer a "splendid" show akin to a meteor shower, the Chinese authorities said yesterday.

The re-entry window remains "highly variable" and the debris from the lab could land anywhere between the latitudes of 43 deg North and 43 deg South - from New Zealand to the American Mid-west, the European Space Agency said.

There is "no need for people to worry", the China Manned Space Engineering Office said.

Such spacecraft do "not crash into the Earth fiercely like in sci-fi movies, but turn into a splendid (meteor shower) and move across the beautiful starry sky as they race towards the Earth", it said.

South Korea's National Space Situational Awareness Organisation yesterday said the re-entry is likely to be between 5.12am and 1.12pm Seoul time today (4.12am and 12.12pm Singapore time).

Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace", was placed in orbit in 2011, an important step in China's efforts towards building its own space station.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2018, with the headline 'Splendid show from celestial fireball likely'. Print Edition | Subscribe