[meteorite-list] Space Junk Lights Up Skies Over Australia

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Aug 26 13:00:42 2004
Message-ID: <200408261700.KAA23113_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Space junk lights up skies
The Age (Australia)
August 26, 2004

It may have caused a stir on earth, but a bright light over
south-western NSW last night was not a meteor, an astronomer said today.

Police stations from Mount Druitt to Goulburn received dozens of phone
calls reporting an extremely bright light and two explosions about
11.30pm (AEST) yesterday.

Goulburn police sergeant Joe Fitzpatrick was on patrol in his police car
when he saw an intense light in the sky to the north-west.

"It was a bluey-green colour ... certainly bright enough to attract the
attention of all those around me," Sgt Fitzpatrick said.

The moving light brightened for several seconds and then burned out, he

"When I first saw it I thought it was a firework or a flare. I'd compare
it to the PolAir helicopter turning its light on," he said.

The light was most likely caused by nothing more than space junk burning
up, said astronomer Vince Ford, from Canberra's Mount Stromlo Observatory.

"Sounds like a bit of space junk, a piece of old rocket casing or a fuel
cell," Mr Ford said.

"My best guess: a small bit of aluminium rocket casing, causing an
extremely bright blue-green light as it burned (out)."

He said the metal was unlikely to have made a sound entering the
atmosphere 30km above Earth.

With tens of thousands of pieces of discarded shuttle materials
congesting earth's atmosphere such sightings were becoming more
frequent, Mr Ford said.

"What many people believe to be shooting stars are actually stray nuts
and bolts burning up on re-entry," he said.

Although up to 10 meteors were visible in an hour in a dark sky,
spotting a piece of space junk as large as last night's sighting was
still reasonably rare, he said.
Received on Thu 26 Aug 2004 01:00:37 PM PDT

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