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Amazing 44-second meteor might be space debris reentry

Video of an impressive and slow meteor seen over Puerto Rico on December 28. It might be a Falcon 9 rocket body falling from orbit.

Report from Eddie Irizarry of the Sociedad de Astronomía del Caribe

An impressive and slow meteor was visible from Puerto Rico on the early hours of Sunday, December 28, 2014. The biggest astronomical society on the island, Sociedad de Astronomía del Caribe (SAC), had reports confirming several witnesses of the event. A video from their meteor cameras shows the object crossed the whole sky from SW to ENE and lasted 44 seconds.

Due to the meteor’s long duration, some suggest it may be a rocket stage or other space debris reentry. A direction from SW to ENE suggests a possible orbital trajectory.

Dr. Roger Thompson from Aerospace’s Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies said:

There was a Falcon 9 rocket body that was predicted to reenter on 28 December, but…reentry predictions can change dramatically as the orbit decays because the variations in drag are difficult to predict. Puerto Rico is near the northern limit of the orbit track and the direction of the fireball would match your reports. Also, the length of the track ‘crossing all the sky’ is consistent with a large space debris object reentering.

Unfortunately, without better orbit data the best we can say is ‘it is possible.’

SAC said there are reports of a similar event on the same date which indicate possible space debris reentry was also seen over Brazil. The reports also indicate that a small rocket tank was found at a farm very near from the sightings area in Santa Rita do Pardo, Brazil.

Some suggest that reentry of parts of the Falcon 9 rocket may have ocurred over Brazil on the previous orbit before finally entering over the Caribbean. However, what was seen in Puerto Rico may have just been another space debris object unrelated to the event in Brazil.

Peter Jenniskens, a meteor expert from NASA Ames Research Center said “looks like a reentry” (space debris), after seeing the video captured by SAC in Puerto Rico.

Meteor or space debris, a sighting like this is amazing, especially one lasting 44 seconds!

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