Published September 21, 2011 | FoxNews.com
In a matter of days, the sky will actually be falling.
A defunct NASA atmosphere-monitoring satellite the size of a small bus is set to plunge to Earth somewhere -- and the space agency's scientists say there's no way to precisely determine where it will crash -- be it Africa or America, the Pacific Ocean or Pacific Heights.
But thanks to a neat widget built exclusively for FoxNews.com by the satellite-tracking website N2YO.com, you can watch the UARS satellite as it courses through the heavens -- see the embedded module below.
Pinpointing where and when hurtling space debris will strike is an imprecise science. To calculate the orbit, N2YO.com runs information from the U.S. Air Force Space Command through a series of algorithms, and overlays it on mapping data from Google.
For now, scientists predict the earliest it will hit is Thursday U.S. time, the latest Saturday. The strike zone covers most of Earth.
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Not that citizens need to take cover. The satellite will break into pieces, and NASA put the chances that somebody somewhere will get hurt at just 1-in-3,200 -- low enough that some people are making a game of the whole thing.
One Irish company is even allowing people to gamble on the crash site. Paddy Power, Ireland's largest bookmaker, has placed the odds that the satellite will crash in the Pacific Ocean at 8/11, followed by the Atlantic at 2/1.
“This is an absolute lottery," a spokesman for the site said. "It really could land anywhere, but I think it would be best for everyone if the satellite went for a dip.”
As far as anyone knows, falling space debris has never injured anyone. Nor has significant property damage been reported. That's because most of the planet is covered in water and there are vast regions of empty land.
If you do come across what you suspect is a satellite piece, NASA doesn't want you to pick it up. The space agency says there are no toxic chemicals present, but there could be sharp edges. Also, it's government property. It's against the law to keep it as a souvenir or sell it on eBay. NASA's advice is to report it to the police.
The 20-year-old research satellite is expected to break into more than 100 pieces as it enters the atmosphere, most of it burning up. Twenty-six of the heaviest metal parts are expected to reach Earth, the biggest chunk weighing about 300 pounds (136 kilograms). The debris could be scattered over an area about 500 miles (800 kilometers) long.