ESA / AOES Medialab

European Satellite Falling Back To Earth

The European Space Agency's GOCE satellite is expected to soon enter Earth's atmosphere, but experts aren't sure when or where.

By Christian Bryant | November 8, 2013

A 2,000-pound European satellite ran out of fuel and is falling back to Earth, but nobody knows where or when it'll actually re-enter the Earth's atmosphere. I mean, it could hit here. 

The European Space Agency launched the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer, or GOCE, in 2009 to map Earth's gravitational field. Ironically enough, it's Earth gravity that's pulling it back down. 

The New York Times reports this so-called "uncontrolled entry" will break apart into 25-45 pieces with the largest possibly weighing 200 pounds. Since GOCE ran out of propellant last month, it has fallen 2.5 miles a day. 

Experts estimate the fragments from GOCE will most likely re-enter the atmosphere Sunday or Monday, with roughly 20 percent making it to the ground.  

The science behind predicting when and where it'll show up is imprecise, but the head of the ESA's debris office said you're 250,000 times more likely to hit the German lottery than to get hit by fragment. (Via National Geographic)

But there is still a small chance it can happen. Just ask Lottie Williams. The Tulsa, Okla., resident had a brief encounter with a soda-can-sized piece of space junk back in 1997. Williams wasn't hurt and said when it hit her, it felt like someone tapping on her shoulder. (Via Fox News)

Although GOCE's time is coming to a suspenseful end, it's been a pretty effective piece of equipment.

Nicknamed the "Ferrari of space" because of its sleek design, Space.com reports GOCE "mapped the globe's ocean currents and lumpy gravitational field in unprecedented detail. The spacecraft also produced the first high-resolution map of the boundary between Earth's crust and mantle."

What's even more impressive is the satellite was supposed to run out of fuel in 2011, but consumption was lower than expected. The ESA then lowered its orbit to collect more information about small oceans. (Via Los Angeles Times)

For those of you not willing to take any chances on touchdown guesstimations from space experts, you can track GOCE's location at n2yo.com.

  TRENDING IN World NEWS
Edgar Latulip's Missing Person PageWATCHLIST
North American Missing Persons Network

Missing Canadian Man Remembers His Identity After 30 Years

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) listens to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a press conference following a meeting of the International Syrian Support Group.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Alexandra Beier

World Powers Try To Work Out Pause In Syrian Fighting

A mock-up picture of what the Titanic II will look like.WATCHLIST
Blue Star Line

If You Like Semi-Morbid Vacations, The Titanic II Is For You

Asian Elephant in IndiaWATCHLIST
Thangaraj Kumaravel / CC BY 2.0

Why Are Elephants Wandering Into Indian Towns?

RosaryWATCHLIST
Getty Images / Christopher Furlong

Reports Claim Catholic Bishops Aren't Required To Report Sexual Abuse

Two clowns in Lebanon next to a pile of trash.WATCHLIST
Clown Me In

Valentine's Day Is Such Garbage In Lebanon

Artist rendering of newly researched galaxies.WATCHLIST
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research

Hundreds Of Galaxies Were Hiding Behind The Milky Way

Medical MarijuanaWATCHLIST
Getty Images / David McNew

Medical Marijuana Might Be Legalized In Australia Really Soon

A church aid organizer packs $65 billion Zimbabwean dollars (just over $2,000 USD) into a briefcase March 21, 2008 in Bulawayo, ZimbabweWATCHLIST
Getty Images / John Moore

Severe Drought Has Zimbabwe Seeking $1.6B To Feed Millions

BBC presenter Jason Mohammed poses on the red carpet at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award at Odyssey Arena on December 20, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Carrie Davenport

That Awkward Moment When A Mugshot Looks Just Like The Reporter

Police received a call about a man acting suspiciously early Tuesday morning. When they arrived, the found a man in his 40s on fire.WATCHLIST
longplay / CC BY 2.0

Man Dies After Setting Himself On Fire In Front Of Kensington Palace

Rescue workers stand near the wreckage of two trains that collided head-on several hours before in Bavaria on February 9, 2016 near Bad Aibling, Germany.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Alexander Hassenstein

Head-On Train Collision Kills At Least 9 In Southern Germany

Former president Felipe Calderon speaks at a summit.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Leigh Vogel

Former President Says Mexico Won't Pay For Trump's 'Stupid' Wall

A little girl poses for a photograph next to a stranded sperm whaleWATCHLIST
Getty Images / Ben Pruchnie

Scientists Offer Theory As To What Killed 30 Sperm Whales

A rare albino green sea turtle leaves its nest.WATCHLIST
Facebook / Coolum District Coast Care Group

Surprise! This Baby Green Turtle Isn't Green At All

A zoo warden protects visitors from an employee dressed as an escaped mock gorilla during a training exercise at Ueno Zoo February 21, 2006 in Tokyo, Japan.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Christopher Jue

Tokyo Zoo Simulates Animal Escapes ... With Costumed Humans

Prince Charles holds a bald eagle.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Chris Jackson

British Police Are Thinking Of Using Eagles As Drone Hunters

eople watch a television screen showing a breaking news on North Korea's long-range rocket launch at Seoul Station on February 7, 2016 in Seoul, South Korea.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Han Myung-Gu

North Korea Rocket Launch Sparks Concerns Over Missile Testing

Syrian refugees at Turkish borderWATCHLIST
Getty Images / Chris McGrath

Violence Forces Thousands Of Syrian Refugees Toward Turkish Border

Policeman are placed in front of Cologne Central Station during Weiberfastnacht celebrations as part of the carnival season on February 4, 2016 in Cologne, Germany.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Volker Hartmann

Women Report Sexual Assaults At German Carnival, Including A TV Anchor

People watch a television broadcast reporting the North Korea's nuclear test at the Seoul Railway station on February 12, 2013 in Seoul, South Korea.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Chung Sung-Jun

North Korea Has Moved Up Its Rocket Launch Despite Criticism

Rescue personnel search for survivors at the site of a buildling that collapsed during an earthquake in Taiwan.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Ashley Pon

Death Toll Rises In Magnitude-6.4 Taiwan Earthquake

The cast of "Spotlight"WATCHLIST
Open Road Films / "Spotlight"

The Boston Globe Applauded 'Spotlight,' And Now The Vatican Is, Too

French grocery storeWATCHLIST
christine592 / CC BY ND 2.0

France Now Won't Let Its Grocery Stores Throw Away Unsold Food

Stock image of a casket and flowersWATCHLIST
Don LaVange / CC BY SA 2.0

Woman Attended Her Own Funeral After Husband Tried To Have Her Killed

Julian AssangeWATCHLIST
David G Silvers / CC BY 2.0

UN Panel Says Julian Assange Should Be Allowed To Go Free

Julian AssangeWATCHLIST
Getty Images

UN Expected To Vote In WikiLeaks' Julian Assange's Favor

Daryush Valizadeh, who goes by Roosh V online, is organizing International Tribal Meetings on Feb. 6 at 165 locations worldwide.WATCHLIST
Bartek Kucharczyk

Petitions Worldwide Call For Barring Of Anti-Feminist American Blogger

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (R) and Duchess of Cornwall Camilla Parker-Bowles (C) help paint a mural inside of Heavenly Hall Church as part of a two-day trip to the U.S. January 27, 2007 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / David Maialetti-Pool

Prince Charles Makes Millions From His Watercolor Paintings

BearsWATCHLIST
Megan Coughlin / CC BY ND 2.0

New Deal Protects 85 Percent Of Canada's Massive Great Bear Rainforest