Within the next several days, a retired spacecraft that NASA employed to study the sun will deorbit. It may offer a breathtaking light display if you’re at the right place at the right time. Sadly, NASA does not know exactly when it will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, so they are unsure of its landing location.
On February 5, 2002, NASA launched the Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager, also known as Rhessi, into orbit in order to track solar flares. throughout 75,000 solar flares were logged by Rhessi throughout the course of its 16-year mission. On April 21, 2002, Rhessi detected the first “X-class flare”—the most powerful kind.
According to the space agency, most scientists who reviewed Rhessi’s findings have a favorite flare (or, in some cases, the least favorite) that they recall like a birthday.
“Ask any scientist who worked on RHESSI what their favorite flare is, and they’ll easily rattle off a date as if it’s a birthday or holiday they’ll always remember,” NASA noted in its shutdown announcement. “One individual even has the most despised flare. He had several disputes with coworkers about it, attempting to explain it, which was not always pleasant.”
On August 16, 2018, NASA decommissioned the craft after losing contact with Rhessi. To stop transmitting data, it issued decommissioning orders. Later, Rhessi completely lost touch with ground control, but it continued to orbit, and mission workers and observatories manually tracked it.
While NASA is aware that the 660-pound vehicle will crash very soon, the space agency can only guess at the moment of re-entry because Rhessi no longer transmits accurate position, speed, altitude, and other telemetry data. It is officially predicted to occur on Wednesday, April 19, at around 9:30 p.m. EDT, plus or minus 16 hours. The satellite might fall anywhere on the planet between 5:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday and 1:30 p.m. EDT Thursday (approximately 22 hours after publishing) due to a 32-hour timeframe.
There is barely a 1-in-2,467 chance that Rhessi may hurt someone, according to NASA, despite the uncertainty surrounding its landing location. Despite what would seem like reasonable chances of being struck by debris, the likelihood that you will be is still extremely remote. The majority of the craft will burn up in the atmosphere, while the remainder will probably crash into some ocean. As it drops, the Defense Department will update positioning estimations. The Space-Track website allows anybody to follow it.
If you’re lucky, you could catch a magnificent burn as it burns down. You have a considerably higher probability of seeing re-entry than of being hit. It should resemble a brilliant shooting star that may shatter into multiple flaming fragments before fading.