Will The Giant Chinese Rocket Debris Hit Us In Central New York?
Maybe you've heard the news about a Chinese rocket unpredictably circling Earth and could rain debris down on New York State over the next few days. What are the odds of it hitting Utica, Rome, and Central New York?
According to the NY Post, the rocket is a 21-ton object. It was the core stage of one of China’s largest rockets, the Long March 5B, which had launched the first module for the country’s space station.
"When the core component separated from the rest of the rocket, the remaining portion was supposed to take a predetermined path that would send it falling into the ocean. Instead, it is orbiting unpredictably."
There are several possible places where debris that survives re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere could crash down — including New York, Madrid and Beijing in the Northern Hemisphere and southern Chile and Wellington, and New Zealand, in the Southern Hemisphere.
What are the odds of it hitting New York? Specifically, what are the odds of it hitting Central New York?
We reached out to several "Space Hipsters" to get their opinions on it hitting Central New York.
Alex Kieckhafer, who studied Rocket Science at Michigan Technological University, tells us that the chance of hitting New York City is about 0.002%, or 1 in 422,952.
He adds, the chance of hitting the State of New York is about 0.042% or 1 in 2,389. To put that into perspective, the chance of winning the Powerball is about 1 in 300 million. This rocket is about 700 times more likely to hit NYC, and 125,600 times as likely to hit the State of New York.
"It's also worth noting that the vast majority of the rocket won't reach the ground. All you'll get is small, dense, temperature-tolerant items like engine parts and some of the smaller fuel/oxidizer/gas tanks."
Another fellow Space Hipster Chris Spain from the UK joined our discussion and said this:
This is a very rough calculation, so don't quote me on this: The orbital inclination of 41.5 degrees means it can only fall within that range of the Earth (N/S). The surface of Earth between 41.5 degrees north & south is very roughly 65% of 196,900,000 square miles = 127,985,000 sq. miles. The area of New York City is 302.6 square miles Therefore the very rough odds of NYC being hit are 302.6/127,985,000 = 0.00000236433. This is 0.2 thousandths of a percent or 1 in 422,952.
He also adds that the rocket stage is large but most of it would burn up in the atmosphere.
"If what's left, landed in the middle of a street it might destroy a car or two and blow out a few windows but that's about it. And again, I'm no expert here but that's my guess."
So as of this point in time, we probably have nothing to worry about.
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