See China's space station death-dive live via telescope

This could be your last chance to witness the doomed Chinese space station Tiangong-1, also known as Heavenly Palace, before it dives back to Earth.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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An artist's rendition of Tiangong-1 in orbit.


China's Tiangong-1 space station isn't long for this orbit. 

Also known by its English translation, "Heavenly Palace," the out-of-control station is heading back into the atmosphere sometime around April 1. We don't know exactly when or exactly where it will reenter, but space fans will have a chance to watch one of its last passages across the sky live via telescope.

The Virtual Telescope Project, in partnership with Tenagra Observatories in Arizona, will broadcast a live online feed of the Heavenly Palace on Mar. 28 starting at 5 a.m. PT, though that time may be updated as needed. It's hard to predict the station's exact movements as its orbit decays.

Watch this: Tiangong-1 space station could crash on April 1 (no joke)

Astronomer Gianluca Masi with the Virtual Telescope Project has been tracking the space station and even managed to photograph it streaking across the sky earlier this month.

The China National Space Administration launched Tiangong-1 in 2011, but lost command of it in 2016, which has led to a lot of uncertainty about its re-entry and whether pieces of it might reach the ground. 

In case you're concerned about debris, the Virtual Telescope Project reminds us that the possibility of being struck by a chunk of the space station is extremely low. 

"The personal probability of being hit by a piece of debris from the Tiangong-1 is actually 10 million times smaller than the yearly chance of being hit by lightning," the European Space Agency says. 

If you can't wait to get a look at Tiangong-1, then be sure to check out a radar view from the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques in Germany. The group released a video this week showing the ghostly radar images side-by-side with an illustration of the space station.