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Burning space debris lights up the night sky over Australia

Image courtesy: YouTube

Image courtesy: YouTube

Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Thursday, July 10, 2014, 5:59 PM - Thursday night, a piece of space junk fell from the sky and blazed across the skies over southeastern Australia.

Videos captured of the event by local residents show the object slowly tracking across the sky, burning brightly and leaving behind a trail of light and smoke. Some even thought that it may have been a crashing airplane.

Video from Kristian Harland, c/o YouTube

Video from Daniel Lattimer, c/o YouTube

Although this looks like a meteor streaking through the sky, the fact that it is moving so slowly is a good indication that it's something else. In this case, it's a chunk of space debris that finally slowed down enough to fall back into Earth's atmosphere. Sources have even identified it as an object known as 2014-037J (40077U), which was tracking over Australia at the time (according to SatView.com) just before it reached reentry. It's identified as being part of a launch from earlier this year, with one observer noting that it may have been from a Soyuz rocket launched just a few days ago. 

While it provided a very interesting spectacle for any Australians who happened to be looking up into the sky, from the CalSky.com website, which tracks this kind of debris (amongst many other objects in the sky), it likely didn't land anywhere in the area. Instead, it probably finished burning up over the Southern Ocean that surrounds Antarctica.

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