Science

German satellite ROSAT will fall to earth this weekend

ROSAT is expected to fall to Earth this Sunday
ROSAT is expected to fall to Earth this Sunday
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ROSAT is expected to fall to Earth this Sunday
ROSAT is expected to fall to Earth this Sunday

Here we go again. An out of service German satellite is hurtling towards Earth and may re-enter its atmosphere this weekend, according to the German Aerospace Centre. Last month small pieces of NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) crash-landed somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

The German X-ray satellite ROSAT was first launched in June 1990 on a research mission to examine the entire sky with an imaging telescope on X-ray sources. Now, the defunct satellite, which has been out of operation since 1999, is falling towards Earth’s atmosphere at 28,000 kilometres per hour.

The vast majority of the minivan-sized satellite will burn up upon re-entry, although up to 30 fragments weighing a total of 1.7 tonnes could hit the Earth’s surface. Scientists cannot accurately predict where its debris will eventually land, but have specified a large area of the globe between 53-degrees north and 53-degrees south as a possible impact zone – so basically anywhere!

The largest fragment that could hit the Earth’s surface is the satellite’s 1.6 tonne telescope mirror, as it is more resistant to heat.

ROSAT’s re-entry is expected to occur between the 22nd – 23rd of October. As the satellite draws ever closer, scientists will be more able to accurately predict when and where the satellite will fall.

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Darren McCarra
Darren McCarra is co-editor of The Sociable. He has a keen interest in photography, all things mobile, and writing about technology and social media. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.