Most likely space junk

LETTER

The meteor seen by so many people on Thursday night was most likely Chinese space junk, rather than any extraterrestrial object, based on the video and witness observations.

Earth is not currently running through any major meteor stream at the moment, so it would have had to be a random space rock if it was a meteor.

On average one piece of human-launched space vehicles or satellites re-enters the atmosphere every day.

However, the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean to the east of New Zealand is a favoured space “junkyard” for de-orbiting material.

It so happens that China’s biggest orbital launcher to date, the Chang Zen 7, or CZ-7 of the Long March series of rockets, was launched on a major trial on April 20 from the Chinese space centre at Wenchang on Hainan Island, and was scheduled to be de-orbited on Thursday.

NORAD’s space tracking programme showed the rocket’s main stage crossed New Zealand from west to east at about the time of the de-orbiting.

The greenish colour of the object seen shooting across the sky is typical of magnesium alloy components burning up.

Human-made space-craft also typically break up into smaller pieces as they hit the atmosphere.

This 53-metre CZ-7 rocket leads China’s drive to be a major space participant.Fuelled up at launch, the rocket weighs 594 tonnes, with two main stages supplemented by four strap-on boosters.

In the flight just ended, it carried the Tianzhou unmanned cargo spacecraft on its debut mission. The nine-metre Tianzhou craft successfully docked with China’s Tiangong-2 space laboratory on April 22.

Roger Handford

Amateur astronomer

The meteor seen by so many people on Thursday night was most likely Chinese space junk, rather than any extraterrestrial object, based on the video and witness observations.

Earth is not currently running through any major meteor stream at the moment, so it would have had to be a random space rock if it was a meteor.

On average one piece of human-launched space vehicles or satellites re-enters the atmosphere every day.

However, the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean to the east of New Zealand is a favoured space “junkyard” for de-orbiting material.

It so happens that China’s biggest orbital launcher to date, the Chang Zen 7, or CZ-7 of the Long March series of rockets, was launched on a major trial on April 20 from the Chinese space centre at Wenchang on Hainan Island, and was scheduled to be de-orbited on Thursday.

NORAD’s space tracking programme showed the rocket’s main stage crossed New Zealand from west to east at about the time of the de-orbiting.

The greenish colour of the object seen shooting across the sky is typical of magnesium alloy components burning up.

Human-made space-craft also typically break up into smaller pieces as they hit the atmosphere.

This 53-metre CZ-7 rocket leads China’s drive to be a major space participant.Fuelled up at launch, the rocket weighs 594 tonnes, with two main stages supplemented by four strap-on boosters.

In the flight just ended, it carried the Tianzhou unmanned cargo spacecraft on its debut mission. The nine-metre Tianzhou craft successfully docked with China’s Tiangong-2 space laboratory on April 22.

Roger Handford

Amateur astronomer

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