Space station crashes into Pacific


One of China’s greatest space marvels, the Tiangong-1 space station, has met its fiery end by re-entering Earth’s atmosphere on April 1, breaking up over the Pacific. The exact location of the crash is still unknown.

At the size of a school bus, the 8.5-ton space lab has been unmanned since 2013 and lost contact with the Chinese in 2016, following an apparent malfunction that ended communications with the spacecraft. The Chinese have not publicly stated what this malfunction could have been.

The Chinese originally planned to use Tiangong-1’s thrusters to guide the spacecraft harmlessly into the ocean, but after the apparent communications malfunction the space station has gradually been dropping lower as it passes through the upper atmosphere. Scientists predicted the station would re-enter the atmosphere anytime between March 29 to April 2.

“With our current understanding of the dynamics of the upper atmosphere and Europe’s limited sensors, we are not able to make very precise predictions,” Holger Krag, head of the European Space Agency Space Debris Office, said in a statement. “The high speeds of returning satellites mean they can travel thousands of kilometers during that time window, and that makes it very hard to predict a precise location of reentry.”

According to CNN, China’s Manned Space Agency said the space station crashed into the Pacific Ocean at 8:16 p.m. ET on April 1, with most debris burning up in the re-entry process. While the exact location of the downed space station is unknown, it is most likely located north of an area known as “the spacecraft graveyard,” an area of the Pacific where most space agencies try to put space craft down into.

News coverage that surrounded the Tiangong-1 re-entry was unprecedented, only becoming big due to the chance of crashing on land. While no one has died from being hit by falling spacecraft debris, one woman in Tulsa, Okla., was struck on the shoulder by a piece of a rocket fuel tank, but was uninjured, in 1997.

Arctic Sea ice near record low level


In 2016, the maximum extent of Arctic sea ice was 5.57 million square miles, the lowest on record. This past year, sea ice extended 5.59 million square miles, an increase from last year.

Despite the small increase from last year, a downward trend in ice coverage has been recorded since satellites began observing sea ice extent in 1979. The sea ice extent for the past four years has been the four lowest on record.

Decreasing Arctic sea ice is a strong indicator that the Arctic is warming. For many, a warming Arctic implies warmer temperatures, but it could be a key factor in explaining the onslaught of winter storms and sub-zero temperatures that have been affecting the northeastern United States for the past month.

“The jet stream is getting weaker and shifting its behavior, sending cold air south from the Arctic and pumping warm air north,” Jennifer A. Francis, an Arctic researcher at Rutgers University, told The New York Times. “We’ve been in this pattern along the East Coast that is very conducive to the formation of nor’easter-type storms, part of the reason for that is because we’ve had this pattern in the jet stream that’s been so persistent.”

The influence of the Arctic on the global climate system is immense. A warming Arctic implies that sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are rising and that the jet stream is becoming unstable, creating massive storms.

In an age where the fight to stop climate change is gaining momentum, data like this is crucial; it continues to imply that global climate change is, and has been, occurring since the Industrial Revolution.

Will lawmakers and government officials finally begin to act on the data that scientists have been collecting for years? Who knows, but as time progresses and we continue to dig ourselves into a deeper hole, one day there will be no going back.

Malibu brush fire sparks investigation


A small brush fire in Malibu, Calif., north of Los Angeles, began early Monday morning, prompting temporary evacuations and threatening structures.

A heat wave resulting in near-record high temperatures was recorded throughout Southern California on Sunday. The heat, along with the powerful Santa Ana winds gusting up to 40 m.p.h., prompted red-flag fire warnings.

First reports of the fire were at 3:15 a.m. in the 23500 block of Civic Center Way in Malibu. The fire in close vicinity to populated areas led officials to issue mandatory evacuations in the Harbor Vista Drive, Colony View Circle and Malibu Crest Drive areas.

An initial estimate of the blaze was around six acres, but the figure was then narrowed to about 2.6 acres. By 5 a.m., containment was at 95 percent and by 5:30 a.m., local evacuations were lifted. Little to no structural damage was reported.

The L.A. County Fire Department reported that the fire was ‘suspicious in nature’ and that an investigation to determine the cause of the fire will be conducted. The cause of the fire has not been determined, but fingers point to a homeless encampment. The investigation is ongoing.

Cal Fire, a subset of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, reported that nearly 120 fires have occurred though Jan. 21 this year. California’s five-year average for that time frame is 86. Red-flag conditions will remain active for the region until the end of the week.