Giant balls of metal spotted falling from the sky in different parts of the world have left people baffled. Brits, Russians and now Peruvians have spotted fireballs plummeting into their local towns within weeks of each other — so where did they come from?
Locals from Peru’s southeastern Andean community were terrified after finding three mysterious metal objects in nearby fields. They found the huge rocks hours after dozens of pictures and videos of a blazing object, taken in the Peruvian towns of Tingo Maria and Pucalklpa, which are 115 miles away from each other, were uploaded to social media.
Romulo Barros, the chief of the fire service in the Brazilian municipality of Cruzeiro do Sul, said the object was most likely a meteorite.
But the Peruvian Air Force confirmed the fireball was actually a Russian space rocket re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. He added that the fireball may have been the re-entry of the SL-23 rocket and the three metal spheres were fuel tanks belonging to a satellite.
And Meteorologist Alejandro Fonesca, from the Federal University of Acre in Brazil, said that no meteorites had been predicted to fall in the area. He suggested the ball was more likely made up of space debris, a term used to describe defunct man-made objects, such as old satellites, that are left in space.
He said: “When the debris enters the atmosphere it comes under intense friction and this causes it to set on fire. That is what could have happened.”
The balls were eventually confirmed to be a rare atmospheric re-entry of a rocket that was launched from Kazakhstan on the day after Christmas. The balls were 88-pound pieces of the rocket used to hold reaction control system propellant or tank pressure gases, they are often the only surviving parts of the rockets.
The rocket was launched as part of a joint venture between Russia and Angola to put the Angosat-1 into orbit in a bid to improve communications in the African country.
Two years ago similar balls were found in Vietnam. Three metal spheres between 10 and 31 inches in diameter had Cyrillic writing on them and were found about 60 miles apart. The newest observations came weeks after Americans, Brits and Russians saw similar fireballs crash into earth. On New Year’s Eve, two young men filmed a green fireball flying across the fields of Wakefield, England.
Confirming their suspicions, the UK Meteor Network said the International Meteor Organization received more than 700 reports of a fireball on December 31 at around 5:35 p.m.
Days later, Russians were shocked to see the night sky momentarily turn deep blue as a meteorite whizzed across the sky. Artyom Russkikh told the Siberian Times he felt a “vibration” as he was driving and heard an explosion, as he saw the fireball.
On January 17, the USGS confirmed a meteor crashed into Michigan at 8:10 p.m., causing a minor earthquake.