Science

Tiangong-1 just missed Point Nemo, the spacecraft cemetery on Earth

Astronomer Jonathan McDowell, meanwhile, pointed out through a tweet that the Chinese space station just missed Point Nemo, which is a place in the Pacific Ocean known as the

Several satellite launches are made each year to fulfil our technological needs. But they have a lifespan and undergo wear and tear in space. This gives rise to space debris or space junk. Do you know where does this space junk go? Well, there is a graveyard on Earth where these dead and decade spacecraft and space junks are deposited. The remote place lies at 48 degrees 52.6 minutes south latitude and is known as ‘Point Nemo’ or the ‘Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility.’

The spot is around 1,450 nautical miles away from any spot of land, and according to NASA, it is the perfect Dumping place for dead and dying spacecraft. NASA calls this place as spacecraft cemetery. And said that it is in the Pacific Ocean and is pretty much the farthest place from any human civilization one can find. Bill Ailor, an aerospace engineer, and atmospheric re-entry specialist said that it’s the safest place to put things down. But to bury something in the space cemetery, space agencies need to time the crash over the spot.

The phrase Point Nemo and Spacecraft Cemetery can refer to an area in the southern Pacific Ocean 3,900 kilometres (2,400 mi) southeast of Wellington, New Zealand, where spacecraft, notably the defunct Mir space station and waste-filled Progress cargo ships are and have been routinely deposited. The area corresponds with the “Point Nemo” oceanic pole of inaccessibility; the area of ocean furthest from land. It has been chosen for its remoteness, so as not to endanger or harm human and oceanic life. The nearest land is approximately 2,415 kilometres (1,501 mi) away from the cemetery.

Other spacecraft types that routinely use the South Pacific re-entry location include several other unmanned resupply spacecraft to the ISS: the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle, and the European Space Agency Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV). A total of more than 263 spacecraft were disposed of in this area between 1971 and 2016.

NASA informed that smaller satellites do not generally end up at Point Nemo because the heat generated from the friction of the air burns up the satellites as it falls towards the Earth at thousands of miles per hour. Where the Point Nemo comes into action is when larger objects, like a spacecraft or a space station, renter to Earth. These bigger space debris might not entirely burn up in the atmosphere and break into thousand small pieces coming down at a very fast speed.

Recently, it was reported that Chinese space station Tiangong-1 has lost connection with the Chinese space agency and thus would crash –land inside Earth anytime between December and April. But the main problem is that no one knows when the space station will fall and where it will crash. Hence, scientists are doubtful about pushing the Tiangong-1 satellite to Point Nemo because they have lost control of it. The Space cemetery is a very remote place, and only the astronauts of the International Space Station are the closest humans from it. Between 1971 and mid-2016, space agencies all over the world, including SpaceX, dumped at least 260 spacecraft into the remote region.

The Chinese space station, Tiangong 1 launch six years ago in 2011 has already been reported to crash soon in Earth anytime by April 2018. The satellite which name translates to “Heavenly Palace”  was orbiting Earth has lost its track and become out of control.

The Guardian reported that the Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell said that the Tiangong-1 is decaying quickly and one can “expect it will come down a few months from now – late 2017 or early 2018”, he said. However, what’s surprising is that China also doesn’t know where the collision will occur as scientists have lost the track of space lab module.

The sky gathers can keep an eye on the Tiangong 1 with naked eyes. As one will be easily able to identify the crashing Chinese space station and a flying aeroplane. Unlike aircrafts, satellites look like a unblinking white light gliding swiftly across the sky.

It is expected that the people living in Southern and Nothern Hemispherical regions will be the luckiest to view the satellite, but it also depends on the date. As these days till November starts, it the Southern skywatchers will have a higher probability to snap the space stations. While after that it will roam around Northern Hemispherical region. It should be also noted that viewers above 60 degrees latitude will be out of luck, as the station will never rise above your local horizon.

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