Flaming Space Junk Over Australia Is Russian Rocket Debris

Australians saw what looked to be a meteor flying through the night sky. But experts confirm it to be falling debris from a Russian rocket.
Posted at 10:48 AM, Jul 11, 2014

Australians got quite a view as a mysterious bright object flew across the night sky Thursday.

One puzzled bystander recorded this video of the object as it hurled through the sky. (Via YouTube / Kristian Hardland)

"That's an airplane crashing. Oh my god." 

Many others also had no idea what it was, heading to Twitter to express their guesses. (Via Twitter / @GL_Juzzy, @Leonsjogren, @jennyann24)

Even Australian news outlets initially reported it to be a meteor. (Via 9 News

But according to The Sydney Morning Herald, experts say that fireball was actually space junk — debris from a Russian rocket falling back to earth.

It came from the Soyuz rocket that was used to launch a Russian weather satellite and other smaller satellites from Kazakhstan Tuesday. (Via Dauria Aerospace)

Astronomer Jonathan McDowell tells CNN: "What you're seeing in that fireball is it slowing down really fast. It's belly-flopping on the world's atmosphere."

McDowell explains such debris is not usually seen because it might appear during the day or appear over uninhabited areas, such as large bodies of water, where it's unlikely to be spotted.

Although it's rare, this falling debris does sometimes make it back to Earth. One example is this motor casing that landed in Saudi Arabia in 2001. (Via NASA)

But if you're wondering whether you should be watching out for any such debris, don't worry. According to The Aerospace Corporation, only one person has actually been hit.

Lottie Williams from Oklahoma says she was struck by an object no larger than a crushed soda can in 1997. (Via ABC)

As for the Russian space junk, it's unknown where exactly it landed, but some experts point to the ocean off the northeastern coast of Australia.