Early last Friday evening a spectacular array of lights crossed the midwestern sky over a five minute period. Their slow movement appeared to rule out meteors, and news media throughout the region were flooded with UFO reports.

Earlier on Friday a trio of Glonass satellites lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan aboard a single Russian Proton rocket. The successful launch added three new satellites to the Glonass array and, unintentionally, triggered the Friday night sky show over Texas. Glonass is the Russian global positioning system.

“In my opinion, the [Texas fireball] was the re-entry of the Proton rocket’s 4th-stage casing,” says Alan Pickup, a satellite decay expert who works at the United Kingdom’s Astronomy Technology Centre at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh. “It was a cylinder 3.7m in diameter and 4m long that weighs some 800 kg.”

“The object had passed through perigee (closest approach to Earth) at 7:19 p.m. Central Daylight Time (00:19 UT) when it was over the eastern Pacific en route to the Mexico coast. It would have passed 3.1 degrees west of Abilene, Texas, at 7:25 p.m. (00:25 UT) and almost directly over Lubbock, Texas, 19 seconds later. Its track continued over Oklahoma and Kansas towards Lincoln, Nebraska, which it would have reached at about 7:27 p.m. local time were it still in orbit.”

For Alan Pickup’s Satellite Tracking Page click here.

For Alan Pickup’s report on the Friday 13th event, click here.

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