Telescope spots the Chinese Long March 5B rocket that is currently in an unstable orbit around Earth

Telescope spots the Chinese Long March 5B rocket that is currently in an unstable orbit around Earth
China's Long March 5B rocket spotted in orbit around Earth by a sky gazer in Italy, who is a part of the Virtual Telescope ProjectVTP/Twitter
  • The Chinese rocket that has been hurtling towards Earth has been captured on camera by the Virtual Telescope Project.
  • The Long March 5B’s exact point of re-entry is still not known but it will most likely enter Earth’s orbit on May 8.
  • Experts are hoping that it will not fall over a populated area, but in the Pacific or Atlantic ocean instead.
A sky gazer in Italy, who is a part of the Virtual Telescope Project, has spotted the huge Chinese rocket core that is currently circling the Earth in an unstable orbit. According to experts, the 20-tonne booster is big enough that some parts are likely to reach the ground.

Telescope spots the Chinese Long March 5B rocket that is currently in an unstable orbit around Earth
At the time the image was taken, the Long March 5B rocket was around 700 kilometres from the Earth's surfaceVTP/Twitter

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The odds are that whatever debris does fall to the ground, it will likely be over open waters. But there is no guarantee that the Long March 5B’s re-entry won’t happen somewhere over a populated area. "U.S. Space Command is aware of and tracking the location of the Chinese Long March 5B in space, but its exact entry point into the Earth's atmosphere cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its re-entry, which is expected around May 8," said the US defence agency as it tracked the debris from the Pentagon on May 5.

It was expected that the Chinese rocket would perform an active maneuver to deorbit itself, but that does not seem to be on the cards. At the press conference ahead of the launch, the Commander-in-Chief of the Long March 5B launch vehicle — Wang Jue — told reporters that the Long March 5B had been improved since the last time, but no possible deorbit maneuver was mentioned.
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Other players in the space race, like India, the US, Russia, and Japan, retain enough fuel to allow operators on the ground to reorient the rocket as it falls, so that it can land harmlessly into the ocean as per the guidelines set forth by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs ( UNOOSA).

Size matters, and China should already know that


The Long March 5B rocket was launched by the Asian giant to deliver the first set of components to build its own space station.

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And it’s not like China did not know that the rocket would likely create an issue. When it launched the Long March 5B last year, the rocket re-entered the atmosphere to fly right above Los Angeles and New York City before finally crashing into the Atlantic waters.

Telescope spots the Chinese Long March 5B rocket that is currently in an unstable orbit around Earth
China's Long March 5B rocket has been built specifically to deliver components to help build the country's space stationChina Manned Space

Even then, the debris landed a little too close to comfort for the residents of the Ivory Coast. At the time, experts estimated that the booster was the largest object to make an uncontrolled re-entry like this in nearly 30 years.

Predictions regarding the Long March 5B rocket’s re-entry will likely improve as it is monitored further. Because of the ‘unstable’ orbit, which causes tumbling, the core’s interactions with Earth’s thin atmosphere are going to make an exact reading difficult.
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