Falling Russian Space Junk Lights Up The Sky In Australia
Debris from a Russian rocket re-entering Earth’s atmosphere was visible in the form of a bright streak of light across the sky in parts of Australia on Friday evening, May 22.
Residents in Victoria reported seeing the sky light up just after dusk on Friday, with many in Rochester, Kyneton, Echuca and Cashmore initially believing it to be a meteor shower or something similar.
The event was spotted by numerous skygazers and videos of the light show were quickly shared across different social media platforms, showing a slowly moving trail of light crossing the night sky.
One 30-second video, captured by Mel Aldridge in Cashmore near Portland, was shared to the Melbourne-based Victorian Storm Chasers Facebook page, which described the event as ‘epic’.
While initially the page described the light show as a ‘meteor sighting’, they soon updated the post to say: ‘We are getting reports that this may have been a Russian space launch.’
Those commenting on the post weren’t so sure though, with one person writing: ‘Everyone calm down. It’s just Optimus Prime and the rest of the autobots coming to help Bumblebee.’ Another joked: ‘After everything else that’s gone down this year so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is triffids.’
Not to worry though, because we now know the cause of the light event and it had nothing to do with Optimus Prime. Perry Vlahos, the vice-president of the Astronomical Society of Victoria, confirmed it was actually a rocket returning to Earth.
Vlahos told The Guardian:
The fact it was slow moving and at a shallow angle, and an amount of disintegration was occurring, gave it away it was not an alien spacecraft, a meteor or comet.
It’s a late-stage Russian rocket that put up a satellite about 5.30 our time this afternoon. So that spent rocket stage has re-entered the atmosphere.
Russia launched the Soyuz-2-1b rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome at approximately 10:30 Moscow time (17:30 Melbourne time) on Friday, to deliver a Tundra No.4 satellite in orbit.
The satellite, which contains an infrared telescope to detect heat sources, will be used by the Kremlin as part of their early-warning missile defense system.
Vlahos said the debris would have completely disintegrated as it burned up in the atmosphere and so none of it would have made it to Earth, although Jonti Horner, a professor of Astrophysics at the University of Southern Queensland, told ABC News there was a chance some small pieces might have made it to the ground.
However, he agreed most of the debris likely disintegrated.
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Credits7NEWS Melbourne/Twitter and 3 others
Victorian Storm Chasers/Facebook