Friday, July 11, 2014

Australian Fireball was Space Junk


via RSOE EDIS


The 'meteor' that sent social media into meltdown overnight was more likely a disintegrating Russian weather satellite from Kazakhstan, it has now been claimed. Police were inundated with calls after residents across New South Wales witnessed the streaking light with a long burning tail, calling triple-0 in droves. Social media websites lit up from around 9.45pm with reports of sightings of a bright object with a long tail burning across the sky in Victoria, NSW and Tasmania. Sydney observatory astronomer Melissa Hulbert says what was believed to be a meteor was more likely part of a Russian satellite launched from Kazakhstan. "It looks like it was the upper-stage of a Soyuz's rocket that was launched a few days ago," Ms Hulbert told AAP. "Apparently the tracking and impact prediction matched, time and location, what we saw." She said the object seen over Australian skies would have been a piece of the rocket designed to fall away as part of the launch of the satellite. "It's kind of like the Apollo mission," she said. "Parts would be dropped off at various points throughout the mission." The object would have had a diameter of about 3.35m and a length of about 1.5m, she said. Dozens of people posted photos of apparent meteors on Twitter. Southern New South Wales resident James Wright said, via Twitter, that he could see the meteor break up as it passed by. "Just witnessed a very large meteor break up into around 50-60 smaller ones and travel from one end of the horizon to the other. Very cool!!!," he said. "Reports of bright object in sky over east coast Aust tonight! Likely Space Junk," they said. Astronomical Society of Victoria president Ken Le Marquand said the colours reported to have been seen also indicated it was man-made. "The images I've seen show a lot of different colours," Mr Le Marquand told AAP. "When you get lots of colours it usually means there's different materials in there, man-made materials," he said. "The fact they saw all these colours in it could indicate it's made of different materials." Mr Le Marquand also pointed to a Twitter post by Nobel Prize winning Australian National University Astronomer Brian Schmidt. "So our fireball may well have been a piece of space junk," Prof Schmidt wrote, linking to data showing the trajectory of meteor decay. Monash astronomer Michael Brown replied that he had had the same idea. "Space junk crossed my mind too. Travelling close to horizontal and taking a long (time) to burn up," he wrote.

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