Track NASA's crashing satellite to avoid getting hit by space junk

An old NASA satellite is set to crash to Earth sometime today, and the Satellite AR app can help you avoid getting clocked with a hunk of space junk.

The satellite that once confirmed the existence of a hole in the ozone layer is now tearing a new path across the sky in a final fiery descent back to Earth , and there's a chance it could hit you upside the head.

OK, so the chance that you'll get smacked with space junk this week is only about 1 in 20 trillion, but why risk it? You can track the Thelma and Louise-style ending of the Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite--or UARS for short--on your Android phone or tablet with an app called Satellite AR.

A temporary UARS button has been added to the Satellite AR app. AGI

AGI--makers of the augmented reality app that also has the nifty ability to tell you what satellites are currently passing overhead by simply pointing your phone's camera at the sky--have added a temporary button to the app's menu to easily keep track of UARS' demise.

While the odds that you, specifically, will wind up in an involuntary boxing match with UARS are in the trillions, the chance that someone on Earth will be hit by a piece of the satellite is about 1 in 3,200--that's lower than the acceptable threshold of 1 in 10,000 that NASA adopted after UARS was launched.

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I started to calculate the odds that UARS is taking aim at an Android user, but got a monstrous headache. Instead, it seems more of a public service to pass on the word that UARS can also be tracked on the Web, via Heavens-above.com.

UARS is shown on the Pacific leg of its farewell cruise around midday Friday. Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

The latest word from NASA, which is also issuing official updates on the satellite's progress, is that UARS has slowed down a bit, and could now meet its end late today or early tomorrow. NASA won't be making any predictions about where it might strike until 12-18 hours out, but what remains of UARS after the turbulent re-entry that will burn up much of it is expected to be strewn across a 500-mile wide area.

"There is a low probability any debris that survives re-entry will land in the United States, but the possibility cannot be discounted because of this changing rate of descent," says NASA.

So conserve your device's battery for the next 24 hours, world. You'll need the extra juice to keep track of this epic game of space chicken. You don't want to be the person that gets a KO'd by a satellite because you had to get through one more level of Angry Birds.

 

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