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‘Flame in UAE sky’ turns out to be Russian space debris

Published: Updated:

The Associated Press said that the light seen in the night sky over the United Arab Emirates likely was a discarded Russian rocket breaking up after re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.

Aerospace websites and others say it likely came from an SL-4 rocket from the launch of cargo spacecraft Progress MS07 on Saturday.
The unmanned spacecraft, which blasted off from the Russian-leased Baikonur launch complex in Kazakhstan, carried 2.5 metric tons (2.75 tons) of water, food and scientific equipment to the International Space Station.

Dubai Astronomy Group conducted a press conference at Al Thuraya Astronomy Center and confirmed that the images show in fact falling space debris of the Progress module, which is used to supply ISS (international space station) regularly.
A statement said that the view was spectacular and last for almost 80 seconds. The spacecraft disintegrated in the upper atmosphere, broke up into smaller chunks, and burned like fireworks. The trajectory of the debris was over Arabian Peninsula crossing UAE and Oman to finally over Indian Ocean.

“We didn't issue a statement right away because we wanted to be certain about what was happening, if there's any meteor expected. But it was the Progress module," Hasan Al Hariri said. Hasan Al Hariri, CEO of Dubai Astronomy Group, stated that they had checked several sources before making this statement. The map above shows the location of the reentry of the space junk SL-4 R/B (42972U), of the Progress spacecraft, predicted by modeling of orbital evolution until the fragment or satellite reaches the altitude of nominal burst. The SL-4 R/B satellite reentered Earth’s atmosphere at 15:28 UTC on October 16, 2017 with an approximate error of +/- 1 minute(s).

The Progress spacecraft is a Russian expendable cargo spacecraft whose purpose is to deliver supplies needed to sustain human presence in orbit. Progress is derived from the manned Soyuz spacecraft and launches on the same vehicle, a Soyuz rocket.

Prior to this, Dubai Media Office said that meteor was spotted in the skies of Dubai.

“Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre confirmed that a meteorite has passed through the skies of Dubai,” the office posted it at 9.05pm on Monday.

Initially, many residents had posted pictures and videos of the meteor shower on social media, some even calling it a “flame in the sky”. They also speculated over whether it was a meteor, an airplane or a space station.

Many amateur astronomers even suggested that it could be debris of dead satellites.

It’s a meteor!

Later, the General Civil Aviation Authority, GCAA, said, in a statement carried by WAM, that a meteor, which had penetrated the Earth’s orbit, had been spotted in the UAE sky tonight.

The GCAA said that the passing of the meteor was a natural and regular phenomenon at this time of the year, as meteor showers become active during this period, which would then peak by 20th October.

The GCAA clarified that meteors were big metal rocks that burn completely in the atmosphere or might even reach earth and collide with it.