This Is What a 2,000-Pound Satellite Falling to Earth Looks Like

At the start of this week, the European Space Agency's Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer satellite (GOCE) fell to Earth. This is what it looked like as it happened.

This image was captured by Bill Chater from the Falklands at 9:20 pm local time on November 11th. Bill explained that “driving southwards at dusk, it appeared with bright smoke trail and split in 2 before splitting again into more and going on north.”

It doesn't look much from this distance, perhaps, but the satellite weighed in at 2,000 pounds before it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. Now gone for good, GOCE spent four years mapping Earth’s gravity with unrivalled precision. So long, GOCE; you made some very pretty maps. [ESA]

Image by Bill Chater