Earth has been spared yet again — from asteroids, at least.
Australians in central Victoria were shocked to see streaks of fire passing through the night sky on Friday, sparking theories of meteors and aliens on social media. Sky-watchers in parts of Tasmania also reported witnessing the mysterious light show, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
However, astronomy experts say the bright flying objects were probably not from space. Rather, it was likely cosmic rubbish broken off from some man-made structure, indicated by how slow the lights moved across the sky.
Jonti Horner, professor of astrophysics at the University of Southern Queensland, told the ABC that “the slow speed, about six kilometers per second, is a very telltale sign that it is space junk.”
He also reckoned that the object could have been separated from a Russian satellite that had launched several hours prior at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, about 500 miles north of Moscow, as NASA reported Friday morning.
“Astronomy is a detective story. It’s very cool, I love seeing things like this,” added Horner.
Perry Vlahos, from the Astronomical Society of Victoria, seconded Horner, adding that the galactic trash had probably incinerated before hitting the ground.
“Because of the slow speed and shallow angle, and the fact it is disintegrating in the video suggests it was something in orbit like a small satellite,” he said. “It’s still considered space junk, because it was in space. It’s re-entering the atmosphere and burning up.”
Although the Russian rocket theory has yet to be officially confirmed, some on social media wonder if the lights might point to extraterrestrial life — headed as far away from this pandemic-ridden planet as possible.
Asked one truth-seeker on Twitter, “What is it? I’m guessing … Aliens fleeing earth?”