5000 pound satellite plummets to Earth this week

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A European Space Agency satellite is expected to reenter and largely burn up in Earth’s atmosphere on Wednesday morning.

The agency’s Space Debris Office, along with an international surveillance network, is monitoring and tracking the Earth-observing ERS-2 satellite, which is predicted to make its reentry at 6:14 a.m. ET Wednesday, with a 15-hour window of uncertainty. The ESA is also providing live updates on its website.

“As the spacecraft’s reentry is ‘natural’, without the possibility to perform manoeuvers, it is impossible to know exactly where and when it will reenter the atmosphere and begin to burn up,” according to a statement from the agency.

The exact time of the satellite’s reentry remains unclear due to the unpredictability of solar activity, which can change the density of Earth’s atmosphere and how the atmosphere tugs on the satellite. As the sun nears its 11-year cycle’s peak, known as solar maximum, solar activity has been ramping up. Solar maximum is expected to occur later this year.

The ERS-2 satellite has an estimated mass of 5,057 pounds (2,294 kilograms) after depleting its fuel, making it similar in size to other space debris that reenters Earth’s atmosphere every week or so, according to the agency.

At around 50 miles (80 kilometers) above Earth’s surface, the satellite is expected to break apart and the majority of the fragments will burn up in the atmosphere. The agency said that some fragments could reach the planet’s surface, but they won’t contain any harmful substances and will most likely fall into the ocean.

Read more at CNN.com

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Chuck comes from a lineage of journalism. He has written for some of the webs most popular news sites. He enjoys spending time outdoors, bull riding, and collecting old vinyl records. Roll Tide!