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The mysterious boom and flash of light seen over parts of Virginia Sunday night was not a meteor, but actually exploding space junk from the second stage of a Russian Soyuz rocket falling back to Earth, according to an official with the U.S. Naval Observatory.
"I'm pretty convinced that what these folks saw was the second stage of the Soyuz rocket that launched the crew up to the space station," said Geoff Chester of the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.
Residents of the areas around Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Va., began calling 911 last night with reports of hearing a loud boom and seeing a streak of light that lit up the sky, according to news reports.
Chester heard about the incident this morning; the Naval Observatory gets plenty of reports of such fireballs and Chester investigated whether it could be a meteor or whether there were "any potential decays of space junk that were coming up," he told SPACE.com.
He checked the listing for debris that were expected to enter the lower atmosphere from their decaying orbits around this time period and found that second stage of the Soyuz rocket that launched last Thursday was slated to hit during a window that started at 8 p.m. last night.
The Russian-built Soyuz rocket lifted off Thursday from the Central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to launch a new crew and American billionaire Charles Simonyi - the world's first two-time space tourist - to the International Space Station. The spaceflyers arrived at the space station on Saturday.
Chester ran a satellite tracking program that showed that the rocket debris should have come down exactly in the area where the fireball was spotted.
"This is just too much of a coincidence to be coincidence," he said.
Chester said that U.S. Space Surveillance Network had not yet confirmed that this was the case, but said that he was "99 and four one-hundredths [percent] convinced that this is what it is."
Originally posted by Kaytagg
On a side note, I wonder how much, if any, of our space junk has crashed over Russian territory?