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Russian space trash blazes through Australian sky, gives beautiful show

Russian space trash blazes through Australian sky, gives beautiful show

Not a meteor nor an asteroid, but piece of Russian rocket creates cosmic light show over Australia. Twitter and YouTube awash in reports, video of dramatic fireball. (Photo : Wikimedia)
Not a meteor nor an asteroid, but piece of Russian rocket creates cosmic light show over Australia. Twitter and YouTube awash in reports, video of dramatic fireball. (Photo : Wikimedia)

A mysterious fireball that blazed through the skies over Australia wasn't an asteroid as some had thought, but rather something more mundane, scientists say; a piece of Russian space junk.

Calls reporting the fireball to authorities flooded in from the Australian states of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

"We received numerous emergency calls from people concerned," Country Fire Authority spokeswoman Andrea Brown said. "People believed they had witnessed an aircraft crashing into the sea."

But the fireball on Thursday was in fact part of the final stage of a Russian Soyuz launch vehicle that had blasted off July 8 from Kazakhstan, experts said.

The rocket stage piece, the size of a small truck, is designed to drop back toward the Earth and burn up, they said.

"What you're seeing in that fireball is it slowing down really fast," astronomer Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said. "It's belly-flopping on the world's atmosphere at 18,000 miles an hour. That really hurts."

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July 14, 2014


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