NASA’s defunct Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) is due to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere sometime between today and this Saturday, although scientists are unable to accurately predict where it will eventually land.
The 20-year old 6.5 ton satellite, which ran out of fuel in 2005, was originally expected to fall in late September or early October. However, due to a sharp increase in solar activity, its arrival is coming faster and more “unpredictable” than expected.
While the vast majority of the bus-sized satellite will burn up upon re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, small pieces of debris no heavier than 350 pounds will land somewhere on Earth.
One potential re-entry path of UARS occurs over Ireland each night this week, according to Astronomy Ireland. The projected flight path varies from Galway to Wexford and from Clare to Waterford on different nights. If the satellite does re-enter over Ireland, observers will see an extremely bright “meteor-like” object blazing across the sky.
It’s worth noting that no person has ever been injured or property been significantly damaged by falling satellite debris since the beginning of the space age over 50 years ago.