Abandoned booster explodes high over Oz

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Feb. 21 2007 9:19 AM

Abandoned booster explodes high over Oz

Wow, this is really amazing: thousands of Australians watched in awe as an eerily glowing ball of light passed overhead a couple of nights ago. It was quite the mystery, but it's now understood that it was a Russian booster rocket that had failed in orbit last year. It still had some fuel in it, and for reasons unknown it exploded while passing hundreds of miles over Australia.

Spaceweather.com has frakking INCREDIBLE images of it. Check this out:

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This animated series of images, taken by Robert McNaught (yes, that McNaught) shows the debris cloud as it passed overhead. Click the image to go to the larger version at Spaceweather. It's really stunning.

It looks like eventually the orbits of these pieces will degrade, and the debris will burn up in Earth's atmosphere. That will be quite a show!

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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