Watch China's Tiangong-1 Space Station in Real Time As It Nears Its Demise

As Tiangong-1 makes its last few orbits of Earth before burning up in the atmosphere in a few days, you can watch the Chinese space station live online through a robotically controlled telescope at The Virtual Telescope Project.

Live coverage of the event will start Wednesday (March 28) at 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), but the organizers said the timing could change closer to the event. You can visit this page on The Virtual Telescope Project's website to see updates.

"The Tiangong-1 Chinese space station is re-entering our atmosphere soon," representatives for The Virtual Telescope Project wrote in a statement. "The Virtual Telescope Project and Tenagra Observatories offer you the unique chance to see it during one of its very last passages across the skies. You can join us online, via the internet, from the comfort of your home." [China's Space Station Crash: Everything You Need to Know]  

Tiangong-1 is the first Chinese space station; it launched in 2011 and hosted two crews of Chinese astronauts, in 2012 and 2013. It remained operational until 2016, when contact with the space station was lost. The station is now falling toward Earth and is expected to burn up in the atmosphere over Easter weekend (March 30 to April 2).

The Chinese space lab Tiangong-1 will soon make its last few orbits of Earth before burning up in the atmosphere, and you can watch it live online. (Image credit: Gianluca Masi)

It's unclear how much of Tiangong-1 will survive the journey, but it's possible some pieces will fall to the ground. The station has an orbital inclination between 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south latitudes, so it could fall anywhere within those bands. But experts point out that Tiangong-1 is much smaller than the NASA Skylab space station, parts of which crashed into remote areas of Australia in 1979, so most of it may burn up during re-entry. Tiangong-1 weighs only 8.5 metric tons (9.4 tons), compared to Skylab's 100 tons.

China's Tiangong-1 space station is predicted to fall somewhere between the latitudes of 42.8 degrees north and 42.8 degrees south, the area shaded in yellow and green here. (Image credit: Aerospace Corporation)

The Virtual Telescope Project is managed by astronomer Gianluca Masi and includes several robotic telescopes that can be accessed in real time online. The project also hosts periodic public online observing events, which include live commentary.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: