Chinese rocket parts falling back to earth, captured on camera

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astronomy north femalefocusonline july22By Christine Ord – Secretary of the Costa Blanca Astronomical society

You may have seen some news reports of space debris falling back to earth on 20 June. This was part of a rocket used to launch a capsule taking several Chinese taikonauts to the Chinese Space Station.


The rocket was launched on 5 June, but it was noticed that various parts of rocket began falling back into earth’s atmosphere around 20 June and burning up. The re-entry occurred over the Atlantic, off the coast of Morocco. From there, the pieces of the rocket advanced in a northeasterly direction, flying over the Strait of Gibraltar. After that they continued over the Mediterranean Sea, passing very close to the Almería coast. Finally, the burned remains died out over the Mediterranean, between the coasts of Murcia and Algeria.
The re-entry of part of this rocket was captured by a camera installed in the Denia area jointly by the Costa Blanca Astronomical society and the Asociacion Astronomia de Marina Alta. The camera was installed primarily to monitor the passage of meteors in the night sky and to help in locating any meteor debris that may actually fall to earth. It is part of the Global Meteor Network, which is a co-operative group of amateurs and professionals who have installed cameras at their locations and send report of meteors in their area to the Global network.
As the camera monitors the sky every night, looking for movement, it will also capture other objects that are fast moving and this is exactly what happened on the night of 20 June. The Chinese rocket debris entered the field of view of the camera for a second or two and then zoomed away. On the last 2 frames of the captured images, you can even see parts of the rocket breaking away from the main piece.
The management of the Global meteor network confirmed that the trajectory and timing of the debris capture match exactly with the rocket parts re-entry. The camera has been in operation for only 2 months, so it is quite exciting to have captured something so unique.
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