Last week, strange fireballs that were flying across the sky crashed in Chile, igniting the nation’s curiosity as well as the earth. It is still unknown what they were and where they originated, as a preliminary analysis has just ruled out the obvious candidate: meteorites.
Witnesses claimed to have seen blazing fireballs light up the sky over Chiloé Island, which is part of an archipelago off the coast of southern Chile, on September 25. Soon after, there were reports of small bush fires in seven different places on the island. These fires were quickly put out by volunteers.
Astrophysicist and Chilean of the Year Jose Maza stated to national broadcaster TVN that a meteorite or piece of space debris was the most logical explanation. Residents noticed the fireball was moving very quickly and burning bright red, which suggested a meteor, but space junk is just as common; there are an estimated 200–400 known objects that fall into the earth’s atmosphere each year.
The National Service of Geology and Mining officials, however, have since examined the scorched sites scattered throughout Dalcahue and have not discovered any proof of a meteorite.
“Geologists visited the scene to look at the alleged impact site. They focused on seven areas that corresponded to burned thickets, but they discovered no remains, artifacts, or proof of a meteorite falling there, according to the report.
According to the geologists, who spoke with TVN, they have gathered soil samples for a more thorough examination and will publish their findings in a few weeks.
Therefore, what we are currently dealing with is an unidentified flying object. A UFO, indeed.
The most likely explanation is some sort of space debris falling to Earth because aliens are extremely unlikely and meteorites appear to have been ruled out. Since most space debris burns up in the atmosphere, falls into the ocean (which covers 70% of the planet), or lands in a remote, uninhabited area, we are generally unaware of the majority of it.
No one has ever been killed or severely hurt by falling debris, and it happens very infrequently for space junk to actually hit the ground close to people. Only two incidents of people being struck by space debris have been documented: in 1997, a woman in the US was curiously lightly brushed by material that turned out to be from a Delta 2 rocket booster. Both incidents occurred after five Japanese sailors on a ship were struck by falling pieces of a Russian spacecraft.
Of course, the space stations Mir and Skylab are involved in the most well-known space debris incidents. In 1979, when part of the US’s first space station, Skylab, crashed-landed in Western Australia, the country fined the US for littering. The Russian space station Mir crashed to the planet in 2001. Fortunately, it landed in the Pacific Ocean after making the largest reentry into Earth’s atmosphere ever, but not before we saw some incredible images of it blazing across the sky.
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