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27 Nov, 2017 16:32

Mystery of fireball hurtling across Canadian night sky finally solved

Mystery of fireball hurtling across Canadian night sky finally solved

Some thought it was a meteorite, and others a UFO, but we now know that a fireball spotted over Canada on Friday night was neither. US Strategic Command confirmed it was, in fact, the body of the Antares rocket burning as it returned to Earth’s atmosphere.

The ball of fire was spotted by a number of Canadians in Alberta and Saskatchewan who shared videos of the mysterious flames. The military released a statement revealing the truth.   

“U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Functional Component Command for Space, through the 18th Space Control Squadron (SPCS) removed an Antares rocket body from the U.S. satellite catalog as a decayed object after it re-entered the atmosphere Nov. 24, 2017, over North America (vicinity Saskatchewan) at approximately 11:48 p.m. CDT,” Maj. Brian Maguire, chief of current operations with U.S. Strategic Command, told Global News.

The Antares rocket was launched on November 12 to propel the Cygnus CRS OA-8E ISS spacecraft on a mission to resupply the International Space Station. It was due to return to Earth at the time that it was spotted, which allowed some space enthusiasts to connect the fireball to the rocket, CBC reports.

READ MORE: Orbital’s Antares rocket launches for first time since 2014 explosion

Although scientists study the atmosphere to predict when discarded rockets and other space debris will re-enter, it’s impossible to know the exact time it will happen. Rockets are built using materials that will disintegrate as they re-enter the atmosphere, so as to avoid causing serious injuries as they come back to Earth.

"They don't want big heavy cast-iron pumps or things like that falling onto people's heads so they try to design them so that they will burn up safely," Scott Young of the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg told CBC. “It's always possible that a few pieces might make it down onto the ground."