ROSAT - fiery debris to rain from the sky

Oct 20, 2011 By Adrian West, Universe Today
ROSAT Credit: NASA

The recent re-entry of the UARS satellite was not the end of falling satellite debris, as the German ROSAT X-ray observatory satellite will soon crash back to Earth.

Last month ’s large UARS re-entered the atmosphere and burned up over the Pacific Ocean, with about 500 kg of debris falling into the water. But the smaller Roentgen Satellite or ROSAT will have approximately 30 pieces equaling 1.5 tons that will resist burn up and make it to the surface.

The largest piece of the satellite expected to reach the surface is the heat-resistant, 32 inch, 400 kg mirror.

Compared to UARS, there is an increased chance of someone being hit by a piece of the falling debris. The odds have been estimated as a 1 in 2,000; UARS was 1 in 3,200.

As with UARS, it is unknown where ROSAT will burn up and where its remaining parts will impact the surface, however the satellite is expected to re-enter between the 21st and 24th of October. The Center for Orbital and Re-Entry studies predicts October 23, 2011 a 06:40 UTC ± 30 hours.

For up to date predictions check the Centre for Orbital and Re-Entry Debris Studies.

Prediction Ground Track Credit: Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies

Until then, you can keep an eye out for the small satellite as it is a naked eye object. It’s nowhere near as bright as the ISS, but it is visible. Check Heavens Above or Spaceweather for predictions of when it will pass over your location.

The 2.4 ton Roentgen Satellite (ROSAT) was launched by NASA in 1990 as a joint venture between Germany, Britain and the USA.

The satellite was designed to catalogue X-ray sources in deep space and mapped around 110,000 stars and supernovae. It also discovered that some comets emit X-rays. It was permanently damaged in 1998, and its mission was officially ended in February of 1999.

ROSAT will soon meet its fiery end; will you see it pass over before then?

Keep an eye out for that falling mirror.

Explore further: Image: The colors of sunset over the ISS

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA says satellite will hit Earth Sept 23 US time

Sep 21, 2011

The US space agency has narrowed down its prediction of when a defunct six-ton satellite will crash back to Earth, saying on Wednesday that it is expected to land on September 23, US time. ...

Satellite pieces may hit Earth on weekend

Oct 20, 2011

(AP) -- Pieces of a retired German satellite hurtling toward the atmosphere may crash to earth this weekend, the German Aerospace Center said Thursday.

NASA: Satellite fell in south Pacific, not Canada

Sep 27, 2011

That dead NASA satellite fell into what might be the ideal spot - part of the south Pacific Ocean about as far from large land masses as you can get, U.S. space officials said Tuesday.

Old German satellite hurtles toward Earth

Oct 19, 2011

A retired satellite is hurtling toward the atmosphere and pieces of it could crash into the Earth as early as Friday, the German Aerospace Center says.

Recommended for you

Scuttling satellites to save space

1 hour ago

It takes a lot of ingenuity – not to mention a massive quantity of sheer force – to get satellites into orbit. Now space engineers are applying comparable ingenuity to the challenge of getting their missions ...

A new look at the sun's magnetic field

1 hour ago

Sunspots, bursts of radiation and violent eruptions are signs that our sun is permanently active. Researchers have long known that this activity varies in a cycle of around eleven years' duration. Even if ...

Russian, American ready for a year in space

14 hours ago

The Russian astronaut heading off for a year in space says he'll miss the natural landscapes on Earth. His American counterpart jokes he won't miss his twin brother.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

cyborge
not rated yet Oct 20, 2011
Roast-Sat...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.