Paris, France: Theirry Legault, an amateur astronomer from France, has captured a video of the tumbling Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) as it passed over northern France last week.
The six-tonne, 20-year-old spacecraft, which is expected to crash on Earth around 24th September, was deployed in 1991 from the space shuttle Discovery on a mission to study the make-up of Earth’s atmosphere, particularly its protective ozone layer.
UARS could land anywhere between 57 degrees north and 57 degrees south of the equator – most of the populated world.
Nasa says that most of the satellite will break or burn up before reaching Earth.
But scientists have identified 26 separate pieces that could survive the fall through the atmosphere. This debris could rain across an area 400-500km (250-310 miles) wide.
Robust, spherical satellite components such as fuel tanks are often most likely to survive the fiery plunge to Earth, say space experts.
Nasa said scientists would only be able to make more accurate predictions about where the satellite might land two hours before it enters the Earth’s atmosphere.
UARS is one of the biggest American satellites to make an uncontrolled re-entry in more than 30 years. However, the Skylab space station, which also made an uncontrolled plunge through the atmosphere in 1979, was about 15 times heavier than the tumbling satellite.