Sunday, December 25, 2011
Is That Santa? No, Just Soyuz Rockets Falling From The Sky!
The mysterious fireball observed above Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and France on Christmas Eve was the re-entry of the third stage of a Soyuz rocket that transported three astronauts to space, the Royal Observatory of Belgium said Sunday.
A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying the astronauts – Oleg Kononenko of Russia, Andre Kuipers of the Netherlands and Don Pettit of the United States – to the International Space Station, lifted off on Wednesday from Kazakhstan’s Baikonour space center.
On Saturday, a trail of bright light moving rapidly across the sky was observed by many people in Germany and was initially thought to be a meteorite, according to a German aerospace official.
“It is a close assumption that it could have been a meteorite, but that remains unconfirmed,” Andreas Schuetz, the spokesman of German aerospace center DLR, told dpa.
He did not exclude the fact that it could also have been space debris – about 60-70 tons of space junk reach Earth each year.
On Christmas Eve, listeners called in to the radio station Antenne Thueringen to report the puzzling streak of light in the sky.
Some witnesses said that at about 1630 GMT they saw three glowing dots with a long tail, which then split up into several parts. According to Scheutz, many witnesses said it was a shining red light, while others claimed to have seen a white-hot streak.
One listener told the radio station: “Very nice, it was very impressive.”
Another said: “We saw the light spectacle on the way home from church. Our daughter thought it was Santa Claus’ coach with a moose.”
In a seperate space debris incident. The Meridian communications satellite that failed to reach orbit on Friday.
Parts crashed into the Novosibirsk region of central Siberia and were found in the Ordynsk district around 100km (60 miles) south of the regional capital, Novosibirsk.
Residents of Vagaitsevo village said a piece had landed on a house there.
The owner of the house, Andrei Krivoruchenko, said that he heard a huge noise and a crash as the satellite hit the roof.
"I climbed up onto the roof and could not work out what had happened. Then I saw a huge hole in the roof and the metal object," he told Russian state television.
The head of the Ordynsk district, Pavel Ivarovksy, told Russia's Interfax news agency that the damage was being examined by specialists and that the home's owner would be compensated.
The loss of the Meridian satellite ends a disastrous 12 months for Russian space activity with the loss of three navigation satellites, an advanced military satellite, a telecommunications satellite, a probe for Mars and as an unmanned Progress supply ship.
Earlier this month, Russia also failed to launch a Soyuz rocket.
The next Soyuz launch is scheduled for 26 December from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.