Feeds

1-in-3,200 chance* that a fiery satellite chunk will hit someone on Friday

Defunct climate probe to make dramatic re-entry

High performance access to file storage

Small fiery pieces of what was once a climate-monitoring satellite will hurtle towards the Earth's surface this Friday.

Unless you live in Greenland, Siberia or Antarctica, watch out for dazzling lights in the sky as red-hot lumps of NASA-grade aluminium descend upon our planet.

The space agency predicts that the debris from the 20-year-old Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) has a 1-in-3,200 chance of hitting a person, a scenario they consider "extremely remote". It is mostly likely the expensive shards will plummet into the sea, NASA said.

Sadly, if you do manage to catch a chunk of satellite, the US government expressly forbids you from selling it on eBay. The smouldering lump will remain the property of the United States and must be turned over to local police.

Most of the 6.5-tonne craft will burn up in the Earth's atmosphere, but NASA debris experts say that at least 26 large pieces of the satellite will survive the scorching temperatures of atmospheric re-entry.

And they could land anywhere between the latitudes of Northern Canada and southern South America – an area comprising most of the world.

The climate taster has been orbiting the Earth, sampling the ozone layer and chemical compounds in the upper atmosphere. When the $750m UARS satellite was launched in 1991, NASA intended it to last for three years. But it kept going until 2005 when NASA ordered the satellite to burn its remaining fuel and prepare for a suicide dive to Earth.

The last of its fuel is now gone, and the UARS has been gradually pulled closer to Earth. Some recent solar activity has also advanced its descent. This activity can cause the Earth's atmosphere to heat and expand, increasing drag on spacecraft. ®

* This means that the odds that you will be hit by debris are just 1-in-21 trillion, NASA said, since there are about 7 billion people on Earth.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.