NASA employees are now holding their breath as the 6.6 ton (6 tonne) out-of-control Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) is falling faster than previously expected. Yesterday, NASA announced that the decommissioned satellite is most likely to crash into the earth's surface on Friday 23 September ... give or take a day.
UARS will come crashing back to Earth after it was placed into orbit almost twenty years ago. Although the spacecraft will break into pieces during re-entry, not all of it will burn up in the atmosphere beforehand. It is anticipated that 26 large fragments of the UARS satellite will actually fall to Earth, in a rain of debris altogether weighing about 1,170 pounds/532 kg (the largest weighing 300 pounds/150 kg). More information is available in our original article.
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NASA has yet to release any further information about the predicted landing zones, but if it happens to fall close to a populated area, the viewing should be spectacular. Sky watchers have best chance of seeing the falling debris during dusk or dawn, and to the naked eye it should appear like a falling star.
You can follow updates on the falling UARS on the NASA website.