Defunct Chinese space station re-enters Earth's atmosphere over Pacific Ocean

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An out of control Chinese space station that was making a rapid approach to Earth re-entered the atmosphere at 5:16pm Sunday. Tiangong 1 burned up over the Pacific Ocean, far away from civilization.

An out of control Chinese space station that was making a rapid approach to Earth re-entered the atmosphere at 5:16pm Sunday.

Tiangong 1 burned up over the Pacific Ocean, far away from civilization.

Astronomers at Oakland's Chabot Space and Science Center were a little disappointed that Tiangong 1's re-entry was nowhere near the Bay Area, but they found tracking its path toward Earth exciting nonetheless.


Gerald McKeegan and Conrad Jung spent the afternoon reviewing the data that monitored the space station's whereabouts. The Chinese lost control of it two years ago so this day was long expected, but where it would re-enter and would anyone be able to see it was anyone's guess.
"In some ways it's like watching meteors in the sky except this one was created by humans," Jung said.

Tiangong 1, about the size of a school bus, re-entered the Earth's atmosphere 15 minutes ahead of what was projected and over the Pacific more than 200 miles west of Chile.


Since most of Tiangong 1 was expected to burn up during re-entry, the chances of someone being hit by debris was small, but not zero. "That's the downside of it coming down over the ocean. You don't get pictures of it, but the upside is you don't have any danger to the people on the ground," McKeegan said.

A safe ending to Tiangong 1's unintended journey back to Earth.
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