Bill Chater, a resident of the Falkland Islands took the last photo of the European Space Agency’s GOCE spacecraft as it broke up over the South Atlantic on its way north toward Argentina. This was confirmed by ESA today. The photo below was taken by Bill around 20 minutes after midnight UTC, 9:20pm local time and 7:20pm eastern U.S. time.
We reported yesterday and through the night about the final hours of the GOCE satellite. As it turns out, the death plunge of the spacecraft did not happen where ESA predicted, either early on when they opened the reentry window at 18:50 UTC, or later around 23:30 UTC when they predicted a demise in the Indian Ocean near Australia. It wasn’t until today, after consultation with the U.S. Strategic Command that they confirmed it actually survived into the Western Hemisphere around the Falkland Islands. The photo above represents the final proof.
Our website’s educated-wild-ass-guess prediction of a debris field between the Falkland Islands, across Argentina and into Chile/Bolivia was actually more accurate than any other one out there. Huh. 😉 The map below, provided by Spaceflight101.com, indicates some of the predictions.
Another observation: Looking at Bill’s photo above, which was taken from the East Island, it appears he was shooting in a westerly, possibly WSW, direction. If that’s true (he doesn’t say), then the principal vehicle reentry happened to the west – or directly over – the Falklands, unlike what is depicted on the map above which shows it to the south (and east) of the islands. At the moment of the photo, the main debris group is probably at an altitude of about 80 km, which means that large debris could have crashed on the South American mainland. Hmmmm. That “crazy bitch” Cristina is not gonna be too happy about that.