Science

Look out below! A one-ton satellite is just about to hit Earth

Above: The European Space Agency's GOCE "Space Ferrari" is set to crash into Earth today.

Image Credit: Screenshot from Sky.com video

Heads up! A sixteen-foot-long, one-ton satellite is falling out of the sky — and it’s set to hit Earth by 7:30 p.m. Eastern time tonight.

The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer — aka the GOCE Earth Explorer — is one of the most stylish satellites ever launched, which is why it sometimes carries the nickname “Space Ferrari.” I think it looks more like something from Battlestar Galactica than any other spacecraft I’ve seen. It was launched in 2009 by the European Space Agency (so much more stylish than NASA, natch) to map the Earth’s gravitational field.

Now, however, it’s out of the fuel needed to keep correcting its orbit, and the result is that it’s been slowly descending from its orbital height of 139 miles. Today, that descent accelerates.

Unfortunately, GOCE is too big to burn up entirely in the atmosphere, which means chunks of it will be making contact with the planet. Sky.com has a fantastic video of the satellite’s expected demise — with liberal use of terrifying clips from the movie Gravity, of course.

Fortunately, it looks like its track will have it crashing down in the Atlantic Ocean, the North Pole, or perhaps some obscure northern country like Canada.

Scientists estimate it will hit the Earth sometime between 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Eastern time today. If you’re somewhere along the GOCE satellite’s flight path, get ready to duck.