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GOCE research satellite to crash to Earth Sunday night or Monday

Paris, Nov 10 (): A one-tonne satellite falling out of control into the Earth is likely to crash on the planet on Sunday night or during the day on Monday, scientists have said.

The European Space Agency (ESA) said in a statement on Friday that when and where the pieces would land was still unclear. But, they are sure the fragments will crash late Sunday or early Monday.

ESA said on Friday GOCE’s re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere is predicted to occur during the night between Sunday and Monday.

Scientists say the 1,100-kilogram (2,425-pound) satellite has fallen to an altitude of 170 kilometres (105 miles) already and is spiralling steadily downward. As it enters the dense atmosphere, it will generate heat due to the re-entry and start disintegrating.

Most of the parts would burn up when they re-enter the earth’s atmosphere due to aero-thermal heating. Fragments around 200 kilos (440 pounds), or about the weight of car engine, will survive contact with the atmosphere, according to computer models.

The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer – GOCE was launched in March 2009. They were used to study changes in sea level, ocean circulation and the planet’s gravitational field. The satellite is now spiralling back to Earth as it has run out of fuel.

Professor Heiner Klinkrad from the ESA said: “At present we cannot say where the re-entry is going to happen except that it is not going to happen north of the 85 northern latitude or south of 85 southern latitude”.

He further said they were in contact with national civil protection agencies throughout Europe, of ESA member states, so they would get all the information about the re-entry prediction and that also includes information on emergencies in case parts of the satellite fall on inhabited areas.

Scientists have previously said the statistical risk to humans is remote.

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