November 10, 2013

A 2,000-pound satellite is currently plummeting to Earth and is expected to penetrate the atmosphere in less than two days--and no one really knows where it's going to land. The one-ton Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (known as GOCE) has a pretty good chance of landing in the ocean, though pieces may land on inhabited land. The European Space Agency has promised to provide updates on potential landing spots as the satellite nears Earth but you can track the satellite on your own here.


"Where will the satellite -- or more accurately, fragments thereof -- hit? Nobody really knows.

An ocean somewhere is the best bet, with unpopulated areas on land also a good possibility. Still, there remains a chance that pieces may hit where people live. The space agency has promised on its website that potential landing spots will be narrowed down as GOCE gets closer to reentry.

That hadn't happened yet as of Saturday afternoon, though anyone can track the satellite via an ESA website.

One good thing is that humans on Earth needn't worry about is remnants of a nuclear powered or similarly fueled object. While that's the case for some other satellites, GOCE had been powered by solar panels and not-your-average lithium-ion battery.

That battery ran out of juice on October 21, meaning it lasted longer -- since its 2009 launch -- than most expected."

In March 2011, the European Space Agency added another role -- as the "first seismometer in orbit" -- when it detected sound waves from the massive earthquake that struck Japan.

When the satellite strikes Earth, that will mark the official end of its mission to map variations in the Earth's gravity in 3D, provide ocean circulation patterns, and make other measurements.

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