The tumbling rocket body of the Tianhe Space Station should be visible from New Zealand this evening, including from the Bay of Plenty.
The 30-metre long, 21-tonne part of a Chinese rocket, which launched the first module of China’s space station into orbit last week, is falling to Earth unplanned.
It is expected to make an uncontrolled re-entry in the coming week.
The Tauranga Astronomical Society is highlighting the fall on their Facebook page with several eye witnesses from the region claiming to have seen the object hurtling across the evening sky this week.
They state, citing predictions posted on the SatFlare and Heavens-Above websites, that both the new Tianhe Space Station and the rocket body which launched it will be visible again tonight, throughout New Zealand.
The rocket body is likely to be visible as it reflects sunlight, with the Tauranga Astronomical Society describing it as a “flashing”.
According to the SatFlare website, it will be visible at some point from 6.05pm until 6.45pm, rising in the west and heading north east, as seen from Tauranga.
“The rocket body is due to re-enter and burn up in the Earth's atmosphere sometime soon,” says the TAS Facebook page.
“It will be well worth watching any visible passes in case it re-enters. The tumbling motion of the rocket body also makes for interesting viewing.”
The Tianhe Space Station will be visible from 6.45pm, rising in the west and heading north east, disappearing into the Earth's shadow in the north east at 6.50pm.
“You can see it by just looking up in the sky (looking west),” say the TAS in a response to one eager stargazer on their Facebook page. “It will look like a bright moving star which slowly pulses in brightness.”
With MetService predicting largely clear skies residents in Tauranga should be in for quite a sight if they look up to the skies this evening.