That ‘Comet’ Over Victoria Last Night Was Likely Man-Made Space Junk

That ‘Comet’ Over Victoria Last Night Was Likely Man-Made Space Junk

Overnight, the sky over Victoria was lit up by what appeared to be a burning comet, a cosmic event that is usually quite a spectacle and not particularly common, but it was likely just tonnes of space junk, burning up as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere.

The bright light in the Victorian night sky was captured by onlookers and posted to social media. I really wish that I could have seen it myself, because it looks phenomenal.

But it was perhaps not really a comet over Victoria, and it was probably not aliens either. Rather, it was more likely to be burning-up space junk.

“It is something very large, and clearly artificial,” Swinburne University’s Professor Alan Duffy said to 3AW, as was reported by The Guardian.

“It is probably a couple of tonnes… It is really quite extraordinary.”

The bright light in the Victorian sky reportedly burned for about a minute before it faded away. Some onlookers reported hearing a ‘boom’.

Rather than being made of rocks and other naturally occurring elements that make up meteors and comets, it’s likely that the bright light was caused by artificial materials, such as burning metals, as the way in which the object was burning was not consistent with other comets, and more similar to man-made objects reentering the atmosphere.

It’s normal for man-made space trash to reenter Earth’s orbit like this – there is a lot of man-made stuff orbiting our humble planet. In a previous Ask Giz, we settled on there being about 7,930 satellites orbiting the Earth.

Actually, here’s a snapshot from The University of Texas’ map of in-orbit objects – the orange dots represent active satellites, and the blue dots represent inactive ones. The pink ones are uncategorised.

Naturally, by the force of Earth’s gravity, satellites are pulled back down to the surface. Active satellites are obviously designed to remain active for the duration of their intended use, while inactive satellites form a graveyard around Earth, and fall back down from time to time.

Based on the direction of the space trash, Duffy said there’s a chance it was heading to the sea.

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.