A brilliant fireball seen streaking through the skies over Australia has been identified as the reentry of a Russian rocket, according to a statement from the Australian Space Agency.
The fireball, observed Sunday night at approximately midnight local time, was observed by residents of Melbourne and surrounding areas as it passed slowly through the night sky. Several residents also reported hearing loud explosions coinciding with the aerial display.
In a statement issued by the Australian Space Agency, the brilliant fireball was determined to have been caused by the reentry of a Russian Soyuz-2 rocket.
“We have determined the flashes of light seen across Melbourne skies overnight were likely the remnants of a Russian Soyuz-2 rocket re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere,” read a statement the agency posted on X.
According to the Australian Space Agency, the Soyuz-2 rocket launch had taken place earlier that evening from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.
“According to Russian authorities the launch placed a new generation ‘GLONASS-K2’ global navigation satellite into orbit,” the statement read.
“This launch was notified and remnants of the rocket were planned to safely re-enter the atmosphere into the ocean off the south-east coast of Tasmania,” the agency’s statement added.
Prior to the agency’s announcement, it had already been determined that the fireball was caused by a manmade object, given that the sonic booms reported by residents across Victoria had indicated pieces large enough to survive reentry into Earth’s lower atmosphere.
The orange coloration of the fireball as it passed above Australia, which can be seen in several videos that later appeared online, also seemingly indicated the presence of metals and plastics, according to Alan Duffy, Director of the Space Technology and Industry Institute at Swinburne University of Technology.
The Australian Space Agency added that it will continue “to monitor the outcomes of this re-entry with our Government partners.”