A bright fireball that flashed across the night sky in the US earlier this month was more than likely a Russian spy satellite falling from orbit, meteorologists say.
As it flew over the Rockies at roughly 10.30pm on 2 September (UTC: 3 September at 4.25am), 38 people reported witnessing the “slowest and brightest” meteor shower they’d ever seen.
However, not all is as it appears, after Mike Hankey, the American Meteor Society’s Operations Manager explains that it was probably pieces of a spy satellite that had fallen from orbit and had broken up over Colorado and Wyoming – something the Russians deny.
In an investigation by the Associated Press, Mr Hankey said an actual meteor would have burned up too fast to be seen over such a large stretch of land – having also received sightings from Montana, New Mexico and South Dakota.
One person described seeing “3 ‘Rocks’ that fell from the sky were large in size. They were vibrant in color and speed. Never seen anything like it.”
It was also described as being low in the sky, with another observer noting: “This is the biggest meteor/viewing event I have ever witnessed. I thought it may have been a satellite breaking up upon re-entry, but it was moving extremely fast across the sky. Definitely a once in a lifetime event.”
Aerospace Analyst Charles Vick, from Globalsecurity.org, said that it could have been parts of Russia’s Cosmos 2495 photo-reconnaissance satellite, which was sent into orbit in May.
According to the AP, it completed its intended mission to deliver photos to Russia.
John Pike, Director of Globalsecurity.org, said the Russians would want to keep an on “deployed hardware, airplanes, ships, tanks, factories, new intelligence facilities, all that stuff.
“They're looking for the same things that our spy satellites are looking for.”
A video purporting to show the re-entry of the satellite into the atmosphere was posted to Vimeo by Thomas Ashcraft, who is an amateur recorder of meteorological events.
A spokesman for Russia’s Defence Ministry reportedly told the ITAR-TASS news agency that nothing unexpected had happened to their satellites.
“One can only guess about the condition representatives of the so-called American Meteor Society were in when they identified a luminescent phenomenon high up in the sky as a Russian military satellite,” Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on 9 September.Reuse content