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A massive piece of Chinese space junk is unpredictably circling Earth and could rain debris down on New York or another metropolitan area in the next few days, scientists warned.
The 21-ton object is the core stage of one of China’s largest rockets, the Long March 5B, which had launched the first module for the country’s space station, Space News reported.
When the core component separated from the rest of the rocket, the remaining portion was supposed to take a predetermined path that would send it falling into the ocean.
Instead, it is orbiting unpredictably.
There are several possible places where debris that survives re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere could crash down — including New York, Madrid and Beijing in the Northern Hemisphere and southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand, in the Southern Hemisphere, the outlet reported.
Astronomer Jonathan McDowell said it’s unlikely that large pieces will survive the re-entry to Earth, but smaller pieces may make it to the ground.
“I think by current standards it’s unacceptable to let it re-enter uncontrolled,” McDowell told the outlet.
“Since 1990, nothing over 10 tons has been deliberately left in orbit to re-enter uncontrolled,” he added.