It's raining ... satellites?

Don Schwenneker Image
Thursday, March 29, 2018
A satellite is seen in this undated image.
A satellite is seen in this undated image.

The Chinese experimental space station, Tiangong-1 (Chinese for Heavenly Palace), will come crashing back to Earth sometime this weekend and North Carolina is in the zone where it could hit.

The European Space Agency (ESA) said that at around 9 tons, it's one of the biggest man-made objects to ever come crashing back to Earth.

So, when will this happen? Sometime this weekend.

According to, the satellite could start to enter the atmosphere around 3:15 a.m. Easter morning.

That makes it anywhere from 7:15 a.m. Saturday through 11:15 p.m. Sunday night.

And here's where it could hit:

Credit: Aerospace

You'll notice on the map from that the state of North Carolina is in the zone where it could hit, the areas of yellow and green.

So, should you be worried? Nah, not really.

ESA researchers said the odds are extremely small of getting hit by any type of debris.

Okay, but how small? 1 in 300 trillion.

That is about 10 million times smaller than the odds of getting struck by lightning.

So, you're saying there's a chance? Technically, yes.

In 1997, a woman in Oklahoma was hit in the shoulder by a hand-sized piece of space junk from an old Delta II rocket. She wasn't seriously injured.

And according to the ESA, 166 pieces of space junk have been recovered on the Earth's surface over the past 55 years.

Even though Tiangong-1 is the size of a school bus, most of it will burn up on reentry.

Its re-entry may be a spectacular sight if it happens at night.

Here's a local NASA JPLscientist, Tony Rice.

He tweeted a picture of what it might look like on re-entry.

The actual debris field could spread over a path of 1200 miles long by 43 miles wide.

That's not a very big area compared to the GIANT surface of the Earth.

You'll notice on the map above that most of the possible debris area is over the oceans of the world.

But, if by some astronomically small chance, a piece of it does fall in your backyard, the biggest danger isn't from getting hit by it. It may be from picking it up.

According to a fact sheet from Aerospace, pieces of Tiangong-1 that survive the fiery fall to Earth may contain hydrazine, a corrosive and toxic rocket fuel.

If you do find a burned up piece, keep away from it, and report it to your local emergency services.

Again, chances are ... you won't have to.