Satellite set to strike Earth this weekend
ROSAT will be making an uncontrolled entry into the Earth’s atmosphere on Sunday and the chances that it could hit anyone on Earth are 1 in 2,000 according to the European Space Agency and German Aerospace Center.
Expected timing and area of fall
Heiner Klinder, head of European Space Agency’s debris office, said that the entry timings of ROSAT are not confirmed yet as it can enter 24 hours before and after the predicted time. Heiner said radiation shift from Sun is difficult to predict, if solar radiation increases it would increase drag and the satellite will come down sooner than expected.
The falling place of the satellite is still not known and it can fall anywhere between 53 degrees north latitude and 53 degrees south latitude. This is the place which has most of Earth’s landmass, said to the German Aerospace Center's Roland Gräve.
If the satellite falls on the land, it will cause major knock in that area because of the 1.5-ton mirror it has. ROSAT’s mirror is expected to survive even the superheat it will face while traveling in the Earth’s atmosphere
Heiner Klinder said that inspite of the higher odds that the satellite would strike Earth, there are very less chances that the satellite will hurt anyone because of the large oceanic stretch and thinly populated areas in comparison. However, Heiner Klinder warns that if any debris fall on earth, than it should not be touched because it will be intensively hot at that time.
ESA's Klinkrad said, “We accept risks in everyday life that are many orders of magnitude higher than the risks we incur from reentering space objects. Debris will be extremely hot this is why we recommend not touching any satellite parts.”
ROSAT mirror which is expected to come down by escaping atmosphere’s heat is so far the biggest object which will smash into Earth’s atmosphere after Soviet space station Salyut-7 in 1991.
CfA's McDowell said that it is a heat resistant mirror and it was made so to keep it from distorting the x-rays as the temperature changes in space.