SCIENCE
11/12/2013 08:13 am ET Updated Nov 12, 2013

GOCE Satellite Debris Falls To Earth Near Falkland Islands (PHOTO)

Everyone can now breathe a sigh of relief.

The European Space Agency's Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer, or GOCE, satellite re-entered Earth's atmosphere and burned up over the South Atlantic Ocean. No one got hurt.

Bill Chater, who lives on the Falkland Islands, east of Argentina, spotted the falling satellite as it completed its fiery dive Sunday evening.

"Driving southwards at dusk, it appeared with bright smoke trail and split in 2 before splitting again into more and going on north," Chater explained.

The ESA later confirmed that the photo Chater snapped did indeed show the GOCE satellite falling to Earth. In a statement, the space agency said the satellite re-entered the atmosphere around 7 p.m. EST and followed a path across Siberia and the western Pacific Ocean.

Though most of the spacecraft -- which mapped Earth's gravity during a four-year mission -- disintegrated upon re-entry, some fragments may have landed in the Atlantic Ocean, south of the Falkland Islands.

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