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China's falling space station: See the best Tiangong-1 views

Our latest fascinating looks at the tumbling Chinese space station Tiangong-1 come from astronomers and an advanced radar system.

Tiangong-1 appears as a star-like figure in this 2-second exposure captured on March 28. 

Ginaluca Masi (Virtual Telescope Project)/Michael Schwartz (Tenagra Observatories)

We're now counting down the hours until China's out-of-control space station Tiangong-1 enters the Earth's atmosphere, likely this weekend. It may or may not completely burn up. 

Astronomers are doing their best to track the big chunk of space junk, and some have even managed to get images of the elusive structure.

Astronomer Gianluca Masi with The Virtual Telescope Project on Wednesday hosted a live telescope viewing of the "Heavenly Palace" and also captured an image of it, which he describes as "historic." 

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The shot comes from a robotic telescope at the Tenagra Observatories in Arizona and was especially challenging to get as the space station is moving at high speeds of about 17,400 mph (28,000 kph). Tiangong-1 was at about half the the altitude of the International Space Station at the time of the image.

Masi caught sight of the Heavenly Palace with a camera in Italy earlier this month. The photo shows Tiangong-1 streaking across the sky. It appears as a faint line with a backdrop of stars. 

The doomed Chinese "Heavenly Palace" space station moves across the night sky.

Gianluca Masi/Virtual Telescope Project

On Tuesday, the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques in Germany posted some of its latest radar looks at the Tiangong-1. The ghostly red radar imagery shows the space station rotating as its orbit decays. 

Fraunhofer FHR says it has "one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world." It's able to pick up some fascinating views of the roughly 9-ton space station that originally launched in 2011. China's space agency reportedly lost control of the station in 2016, which is why we're now mired in uncertainty about its exact reentry time and location.

The radar system is helping scientists track the space station to better determine its path. It also checks to see if it's still fully intact. Here's another look at a Fraunhofer FHR image that clearly shows the station's main body and solar panels extending out to the sides.

Tiangong-1 appears in this eye-catching radar image.

Fraunhofer FHR

While parts of the Heavenly Palace could reach the ground (or ocean), the chances of anything landing near a person are very slim. Check out our primer for everything you need to know about Tiangong-1's demise.

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