Astronomer: Predicting the descent of satellites

Newstalk ZB ,
Publish Date
Monday, 7 January 2019, 11:59AM
People thought a flash in the skies was a meteor. (Photo / Supplied)

It turns out the bright light streaking across the Northland sky at the weekend wasn't a meteor, but a burning Russian satellite

People from the Far North to Nelson saw the object and break up as it entered the atmosphere.

Stardome Observatory astronomer Dr Grant Christie told Tim Dower an astronomy and satellite-tracking website states the object was Russian space junk.

"This one had been put up, according to records, about 2007, and the indications are it wasn't under any control when it came down."

Dr Christie says that these satellites don't stay up forever.

He says that normally these descents would be controlled to ensure that the satellite does not crash in a built up area.

Dr Christie says there is actually a 'satellite graveyard' in the Eastern Pacific where they are meant to come down.

"There's a lot of satellites up there where no one's got any control over them."

He says this satellite had a very strange orbit that made predicting the exact place where it would come down quite difficult.

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