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‘Santa Claus’ fireball over Europe was from Russia

Published time: December 27, 2011 16:16
Edited time: December 27, 2011 23:41

Footage from viktoreske's YouTube channel

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A mysterious flying object which confused Europe on Christmas Eve turned out to be a piece of a Russian rocket. The explanation came in time: the bunch of “shooting stars” has already made people wonder whether it was an alien spaceship.

Amateur videos of “the star of Bethlehem” on the internet inspired a huge variety of jokes. “Yuri Gagarin is coming home,” one user wrote on YouTube. “We saw the light spectacle on the way home from church. Our daughter thought it was Santa Claus' sleigh with a moose,” a man from Germany told Antenne Thueringen radio station.

“It looked like a very, very slow meteor fragmented in several pieces,” Arnold Tukkers from the town of Denekamp described in his blog. Astronomers soon explained the phenomenon, disproving all the fantastic theories. Andreas Schutz of the German Aerospace Centre told MailOnline that was space junk from the Russian Soyuz rocket.

The Royal Observatory of Belgium confirmed: “The fireball observed above Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany on December 24 around 5:30pm, was the re-entry of the third stage of the Soyuz rocket that transported the Dutch astronaut to the ISS.”

The rocket, which carried Oleg Kononenko of Russia, Andre Kuipers of the Netherlands and Don Pettit of the United States to the International Space Station, lifted off on Wednesday from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Space Center.

Just a few days before, another space mystery with Russian flavor made people wonder. A 6-kilogram metal “Teletubby head” fell from the sky near a village in Namibia. Some Russian specialists believe the sphere is part of the third stage of the “Soyuz-U” rocket launched on October 30.

Another “Russian UFO” has confused foreign media this month. After thousands of people protested against parliamentary election fraud in Moscow on December 10, several newspapers published articles about a strange object spying on protesters. Ironically all the Muscovites knew it was just a drone camera taking aerial photos.