Early riser? See doomed Chinese space station pass over Canberra.

March 10, 2018 | By | 1 Comment
Send to Kindle

(Posted 10 March 2018) China’s first space station, Tiangong-1 will be visible in Canberra’s early morning sky between 11 and 19 March 2018. This is likely to be your last opportunity to see the space station before it is destroyed as it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere.

Reference: Artists impression of Tiangong-1. Image courtesy CAST.

The space station is currently ‘out of control’ due to computer failures. This means that no one knows where it will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Based on it’s orbital parameters, this could be between latitude 42.8 degrees South and 42.8 degrees North.

Map showing the area between 42.8 degrees North and 42.8 degrees South latitude (in green), over which Tiangong-1 could reenter. Graph at left shows population density. Credit: ESA CC BY-SA IGO 3.0

As of 10 March 2018, the European Space Agency estimate that the re-entry window ranges from 29 March through to 9 April. If we are lucky enough to see the re-entry occur over Canberra, it will look something like the European Space Agency’s ATV 1 re-entry.

The highly recommended website Heavens-Above.com site provides viewing time information and finder charts for anywhere on Earth.

Tiangong-1 visibility times for 11 – 19 March 2018. Screenshot of Heavens-Above.com page for Canberra for Tiangong-1.

Unfortunately you will need to be an early riser to see Tiangong-1 (see above image for viewing times for Southern Canberra). You will be looking for a slowly moving moderately bright star. I highly recommend using the Heavens-Above.com site. This link will take you to a page for Southern Canberra which will give you updated viewing times and finder charts. If you are not in Canberra, go to this page for information on how to generate customised viewing information for your location using the Heavens-Above.com site.

On a happier note (because it isn’t currently doomed!) Canberra residents can also see the International Space Station pass overhead in the evening sky.

The image is a 20 second exposure using a 18 mm lens with a DSLR set to 1,600 ASA. The continuous line is the International Space Station.

As per Tiangong 1, the International Space Station will look like a slowly moving star. However, the International Space Station is significantly larger meaning that it is dramatically brighter. On a good pass it can be almost as bright as dazzling Venus.

Go here to find visibility information for Canberra, for the International Space Station for the period 10 – 17 March 2018. Also click the above screenshot for a summary of that information. If you are in another location, go here on my site the quick links I have provided.

Good luck with your space station hunting.

Filed in: My astronomy blog, Southern Hemisphere Sky Events

About the Author (Author Profile)