European Space Agency predicts vast ‘risk zone’ for rocket reentry

The European Space Agency has slightly narrowed down the trajectory of the Chinese rocket set to reenter Earth sometime this weekend, CNN reports.

Its “risk zone” encompasses “any portion of Earth’s surface between about 41.5N and 41.5S latitude.” Several parts of the world fall under that categorization, including essentially all of the Americas south of New York, all of Africa and Australia, parts of Asia south of Japan and Europe’s Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, CNN notes.

Several factors play into the large risk zone, including the speed the rocket is traveling at; small changes can greatly alter the rocket’s course as it plummets to earth.

“The thing is traveling at like 18,000 miles an hour. And so if you’re an hour out at guessing when it comes down, you’re 18,000 miles out in saying where,” Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Center at Harvard University, told CNN.

A more precise trajectory will be available within hours of the rocket’s reentry.

McDowell predicted the rocket will land in the Pacific Ocean.

“If you want to bet on where on Earth something’s going to land, you bet on the Pacific, because Pacific is most of the Earth. It’s that simple,” he said.

Concern over the Chinese rocket’s reentry stems from its size; while typically space debris burns up when entering earth’s orbit, the rocket weighs 22 tons, making it more less likely to do so.

Tags Aerospace Atmospheric entry chinese rocket CNN Rocket

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