The people is anticipating China"s Tiangong-1 room lab"s blazing reentry to Earth"s atmosphere sometime in ~ the next week or so, v some debris probably surviving to reach the planet"s surface.

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However, it"s no the first spacecraft to burned bits of flaming flotsam onto Earth throughout its final, fiery huzzah, and also it won"t be the last. About fifty percent a million piece of so-called an are junk — human-made and also naturally arising objects that have the right to reach speeds of 17,500 mph (28,164 km/h) — are being monitored together they orbit Earth, NASA reported in 2013.

And does room junk fall to Earth? "Yes that does!" representatives of the NOAA National ecological Satellite, Data and also Information organization (NESDIS) affirmed in a Jan. 18 blog post.

"On average, a full of between 200 come 400 tracked objects get in Earth"s setting every year," follow to NESDIS. The factor why friend aren"t continually ducking flaming particles is since many of castle don"t survive the brutal r-entry, and also instead burn increase long before they struggle the ground. And also Earth is a huge place, with 70 percent of its surface spanned by water. If a fiery little of an are debris falls into the open up ocean, it"ll sizzle and also sink without anyone ever before knowing it to be there.


Of the 500,000 approximated pieces of debris orbiting Earth, about 20,000 that them room bigger than a softball. Those bigger chunks that junk — along with an additional 30,000 smaller objects— space tracked by the U.S. Room of Defense in teamwork with NASA. That those 50,000 objects, about 1,000 represent fragments from spacecraft, follow to NESDIS.


In an animation created by NASA and shared come YouTube in 2014, a view of planet from room shows a people surrounded by a moving cloud the human-made debris, i beg your pardon extends outward to type a loose disk approximately the planet.


But while an are junk poses a severe threat to active satellites, room telescopes and the International an are Station, it is seldom something that people on the ground have to issue about, NESDIS representatives claimed in the blog post.

Chances are that most of Tiangong-1 will merely burn up on reentry. However even if the doesn"t, you deserve to at least relax around getting fight on the head by a falling fragment — the odds of in reality being struck by broken bits of the room lab are roughly 1 in 300 trillion, a probability about 10 million times smaller sized than the yearly odds of gift struck through lightning, follow to the European space Agency.

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Mindy Weisberger is a senior writer for Live scientific research covering basic science topics, specifically those relating come brains, bodies, and also behaviors in humans and other animals — living and extinct. Mindy learned filmmaking in ~ Columbia University; she videos about dinosaurs, biodiversity, human origins, evolution, and also astrophysics appear in the American Museum of organic History, ~ above YouTube, and also in museums and also science centers worldwide. Follow Mindy ~ above Twitter.