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Godofredo Vasquez, Mid-Valley Sunday

If you're the type of person who likes to worry — and, really, these days, who among us is not? — here's something to add to your list:

Tiangong-1, China's first space station, is scheduled to come crashing through the atmosphere in the next few days. There's the slightest of chances that it could fall over Southern Oregon. Wherever it falls to Earth, though, the result will be complete devastation for miles around.

No. That's not true. The truth is that the space station, which is about the size of a school bus, almost certainly will burn up as it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere. Lucky sky-watchers might be able to witness a pretty cool sight as the vessel burns: The Aerospace Corp., a federally funded research and development center, said in a press release that pieces of the space station could be visible for a minute or more as they burn, depending on the time of day and visibility conditions.

This particular space station was launched by China in 2011 and carried out three successful missions before it reached the end of the line. The plan for its denouement was to steer it over the Pacific Ocean, where any pieces that survived re-entry would tumble into the sea. 

In 2016, though, all communication with the space station was lost, and with that went the opportunity to guide it to that watery end. Since then, its orbit has been deteriorating and the space station slowly has been moving toward Earth's atmosphere. Experts say its final fiery demise is near.

There's no way to say for sure where the space station will re-enter the atmosphere, and no way to say where pieces of it might land on Earth. Fortunately, science has narrowed this down for us: Experts say it's likely to be somewhere between 43 degrees North and 43 degrees South latitude. Of course, that really doesn't rule out a lot of geography, seeing how about two-thirds of the Earth's surface is between those two lines. 

However, the most likely place for re-entry is somewhere close to those two latitudinal lines, and the north line runs through Southern Oregon.

With all that said, the chances that you might be struck by a chunk of space junk are pretty low: The European Space Agency says the odds of being nicked by a piece of the space station are about 10 million times smaller than being struck by lightning.

Which could mean that you're not worrying enough about lightning.

According to a recent story in The Oregonian about this future space station calamity, there is one recorded instance of a person actually being hit by space debris: In 1997, a woman in Oklahoma was hit on the shoulder with a piece of a disintegrating rocket. She was uninjured. 

Then she was struck by lightning.

No, no, no — we made that last part up. (mm)

Easter bunnies

We're approaching the Easter weekend, which means that some of you might be considering purchasing rabbits to mark the holiday or as gifts.

Before you race off to Rabbits R Us, though, let us offer another suggestion: Check out your local humane society first. Judging by their websites, both SafeHaven in Linn County and Heartland in Benton County have rabbits ready for adoption.

Indoor rabbits can live up to 10 years and sometimes into their teens, according to information from Greenhill, the Eugene humane society. They need exercise, fresh water and food, a living space that is cleaned daily and regular trips to the veterinarian. 

If you're not prepared to take care of your Easter bunny with the same level of attention you'd give any other pet, think twice before adding a new member to your family. But if you're ready for the responsibility, consider stopping by a humane shelter first and giving an older animal a new lease on life. (mm)


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