The orbiting Chinese space station abruptly lost communication with ground control in 2016 and is expected to plunge back to Earth between March 30 and April 3, 2018, though the exact timing of its demise is impossible to know.
As the Aerospace Corporation explains, the density of the atmosphere, uncertainties in the physical changes of the space station over time, and uncertainties in the exact location and speed of the spacecraft (due to ground control’s loss of communication with the object) may cause the time and place of its fall to be farther away from predicted dates than scientists anticipate.
It is also highly probable that the space station will break into pieces upon impact with Earth’s atmosphere, yet extremely unlikely that said pieces will hurt people or property.
The crash may be visible as a meteor as it enters Earth’s atmosphere, “although the location of the re-entry is as difficult to predict as its timing,” Forbes explains. “However, given how orbits work, [points of contact with earth] could be anywhere in a band a few hundred kilometers wide that crosses over the northern US, southern Europe, parts of southern South America and New Zealand.”
The ESA and Aerospace Corporation will continue to give updates on predictions for the space station’s fall in coming weeks.