Twitter was abuzz on Friday night with reports of a strange light in the sky over Victoria. But any suggestions that it was an alien spaceship or some kind of UFO have been quickly scotched by the Astronomical Society of Victoria who moved to clarify the origins of the light as soon as they became aware of it.
The light, which according to 7News Melbourne was seen in places as far afield as Ballarat, Kyneton and Colac reportedly lit up the night sky for close to thirty seconds – certainly long enough for many to be able to film it.
Many people who saw the light thought it was a meteor, while, almost inevitably, there were others who thought it must be some kind of alien or even a burning aeroplane.
But it was none of these and all speculation regarding its origins was quickly explained when Perry Vlahos, of the Astronomical Society of Victoria, confirmed that it was part of a Russian Soyuz rocket re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
Speaking to the Guardian he said, “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.”
Objects lack of speed made it easily identifiable
Vlahos’ assessment was echoed by another expert with Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Southern Queensland Jonti Hunter telling ABC that the object was easily identifiable as space debris because of its slow speed across the horizon.
“The slow speed, about 6 kilometres per second, is a very tell-tale sign that it is space junk,” he said.
It was also confirmed that the entire rocket would have burned up on the re-entry and that nothing would have been left to hit the earth.