'Absolutely amazing': space junk delivers light show across the sky in south-east Australia

Josh Taylor

Debris from what is believed to be a Russian rocket re-entering Earth’s atmosphere has delivered a light show across the sky in parts of Victoria on Friday evening.

Victorians reported seeing a meteor-like streak in the early night sky in Rochester, Kyneton, Echuca and Cashmore on Friday night, Melbourne time.

“Absolutely amazing,” one user said on the Victorian Storm Chasers Facebook page.

“It definitely looks like space junk coming in. The way it is burning off,” another said.

One person on Twitter reported it lasted for around 20 seconds.

The light show was not a shooting star, or a meteor, but a rocket returning to Earth, the Astronomical Society of Victoria vice-president, Perry Vlahos, told Guardian Australia.

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“The fact it was slow moving and at a shallow angle, and an amount of disintegration was occurring, gave it away it was not an alien spacecraft, a meteor or comet,” he said.

“It’s a late-stage Russian rocket that put up a satellite about 5.30 our time this afternoon. So that spent rocket stage has re-entered the atmosphere.”

The Soyuz-2-1b rocket launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on Friday morning carrying a satellite designed to give notice to Russia of missile attacks.

The debris burned up on re-entry and none of it would have hit the ground, Vlahos said.