The fireball that slowly swirled in the sky over Michigan and other neighboring states and counties on Tuesday night wasn’t a meteor, but rather an unexpectedly homecoming spacecraft.
Dozens of photos, videos, and eyewitness accounts streamed to the American Meteor Society from the Great Lakes region to southern Tennessee.
Astronomer Jonathan McDowell, a leading observer of satellites and other orbiting spacecraft, was quick to comment on Twitter that the observations matched very closely with “the exact time expected to pass Cosmos -2551 over the region.”
Kosmos-2551 was a Russian reconnaissance satellite launched on September 9, but it was unsuccessful.
Videos filmed from around the region show a fireball moving across the evening sky for about a minute. This is an indication that the fiery object was most likely not natural, as meteorites are usually much smaller and can move faster, causing them to burn quickly. On the other hand, it may take longer for a massive satellite to disintegrate and encounter more resistance as it re-enters the atmosphere, causing it to burn longer.
Although the images show the satellite getting closer to Earth than ever before as it hurtles toward the horizon, McDowell explained that it was actually seen at an altitude of about 40 miles (64 kilometers).
Fireball isn’t the only one seen this week.It peaked Thursday morning and fireballs of meteor showers could continue to light up the sky all weekend.
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