Image: Wikimedia Commons
In late September, NASA's Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite will crash into Earth. Weighing more than 1,300 pounds and roughly the size of a school bus, the satellite will likely land somewhere between Canada and South America. NASA has stated that although the risk to the public is extremely small, not all of the satellite will burn up in the atmosphere, and its debris footprint will cover 500 miles. The UARS was launched in 1991 to study the Earth's atmosphere, and provided evidence that human-produced chlorine in the atmosphere helped create the hole in the ozone layer. It was decommissioned in 2005 when it became nonoperational.
In the last few days, NASA has produced more precise estimates of when the satellite will crash, now saying between September 23 and 25. Increased Sun activity has accelerated its descent, reported MSNBC's Cosmic Log:
Higher solar activity heats and expands the upper atmosphere, creating more drag for satellites in decaying orbits. The increased drag pulls down those satellites more quickly -- and that's what's behind the earlier prediction.
So keep an eye to the sky in the next ten days, and check NASA's UARS status page for updates on when and where the rogue satellite will hit.
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