Explosion in Argentina following a "ball of fire from the sky"

By Phil Plait | September 26, 2011 9:32 am

[Update: It looks like the cause of this was a gas bottle exploding, and not a meteorite. See the update for 21:15 UT below).]

A deadly explosion and fire occurred in Argentina overnight, reportedly killing one woman and injuring several others. Two homes, a store, and several vehicles were destroyed or damaged.

The thing is, while it’s not clear what caused this incident, several people said they saw a ball of fire descend from the sky when it happened.

Neighbors’ accounts describe a ball of fire coming from the sky as the cause of the explosion. The chief of the firefighters, Guillermo Pérez, however, said the "causes remain unknown" and that "gas containers were found intact," ruling out a gas related incident.

Other reports are similar; in that article the ball of fire was described as being blue. I know a lot of folks will think this was caused by a meteor, but it’s a bit early to run with that yet. For one thing, it could’ve been a small plane on fire, for example; this happened very early in the morning (2:00 a.m.), and from the reports I’m seeing it’s not clear if the witnesses were already awake when they saw this or were awakened by it. Eye witness reports are notoriously unreliable, and it can’t help if the witnesses were suddenly woken up.

[Update (17:30 UT): This is looking less like a meteorite to me; this news story has a witness saying he saw the blue fire after hearing the explosion, and after he went outside to see what was what. Thanks to JoseManuelp2 for the link.]

As testament to that, I’m seeing some reports that the ball was red, and a picture was posted to the imaging site yfrog claiming, without any any supporting evidence, to be a shot of it. I include it here; note it’s very dark, out of focus, and very low resolution (from the pixelation). I have no clue what this picture shows, but I have my doubts it’s a fireball. I expect we’ll be seeing lots of rumors and things like this today.

[Update (21:15 UT): The image shown here of the red fireball is a hoax, and the man responsible for it has been arrested. Also reported in that link is that there were gas bottles secretly hooked up to a pizza making stove in a nearby house, and that this may be the cause of the explosion. I expect that is the final straw on this story — enough evidence is piling up that this was not something form space, or even from the sky; it was some kind of terrestrial event, as expected.]

The explosions and devastation appear to be very real, though. This is the only video I could find on YouTube, and it has no audio, but it shows the aftermath:

I don’t see any obvious airplane wreckage, but it’s hard for me to see that a meteorite impact would’ve done this; for it to have been big enough to cause this much devastation, there would’ve been a big crater as well (like the one that hit in Peru a couple of years back). None is evident, so I’m strongly of the opinion something more terrestrial was to blame here.

I won’t be surprised to hear people asking if this was from the UARS satellite, too. However, that’s pretty much impossible; the satellite came down Friday night, and there couldn’t have been pieces of it still in orbit two days later. Also, again, the type of destruction seen here is unlikely to have been from just a simple impact.

Hopefully we’ll find out soon. If you hear anything please leave a comment below (with a link if you have one), and I’ll post an update when I learn more.

[Update: A grass fire in Texas Saturday night has been reported, and it’s claimed to be linked to something falling from the sky. Again, a meteorite is extremely unlikely there, since it would take a big impact to ignite fires. Stuff like this happens all the time, and remember Texas is extremely dry right now. I would guess this was fireworks, but there’s not much info on this story either. Thanks to Baron Grim on Twitter for the story.]

Tip o’ the Whipple Shield to Antropomorficah on Twitter. Image credit: screen grab from embedded C5N video.

Related posts:

UARS down over the Pacific ocean
Meteorite mayhem III: solved
Peruvian “meteor” freaks out medi
Midwest megameteor makes media madness
What a falling star looks like… from space!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Skepticism

Comments (95)

  1. Cochise

    I agree it’s more likely to be something terrestrial. But couldn’t it have been an meteor that exploded midair (airburst)?

  2. Chew

    No doubt the UARS hype has led many people to imagine they saw a fireball.

  3. It’s pretty obvious what happened here. NASA figured out a while ago that the satellite was going to slam into Argentina so they kept sending out info that wasn’t too far from the truth but close enough that everyone else would just go along with it.

    The satellite DID NOT come down on Friday as claimed. Instead, President Obama personally directed NASA to lie about it so that when Argentina got slammed into a couple days later it would be easy to say it wasn’t the satellite.

    Glad I could clear that up for everyone.

    (yes, I’m joking)

  4. Scott Rivers

    I suppose there’s a remote-as-hell possibility a piece of UARS survived and got bounced around in orbit by winds before finally deciding to fall upon this poor community here…

    …but I’m calling it a terrestrial accident.

  5. Adam

    And when they explain that it was some mundane, everyday sort of thing (plane crash, gas explosion, etc) the conspiracy people will jump all over this being some sort of government cover-up of a crashed alien spacecraft. They will invent stories of people disappearing who wouldn’t keep their silence, strange illnesses in the area, etc. Why are people so incapable of logical thought? It really isn’t that difficult.

  6. Hi Phil

    Nothing fell from the sky, this was invented by the media some hours after. This house fall because of same structural problem, probably helped by an explosion of a gas cooker.
    Today is boring Monday in Argentina and the media need news to work…..

    Carlos Feinstein
    La Plata

  7. Sir Chaos

    That red thing in the picture is very clearly arcing (is that the correct term in this case for not going in a straight line?), so I imagine it is *relatively* slow. Shouldn´t meteorites be fast enough to go more or less in a straight line?
    But let´s assume – for the sake of the argument – that it was indeed a meteorite… could it have hit something explosive, like a fuel tank or a couple of gas cylinders stored somewhere, which in turn exploded and caused the devastation? Although, of course, there are a lot more mundane explanations for stuff exploding than being hit by a meteorite.

  8. Chris

    Pretty Obvious gas explosion.

  9. Jason

    It was those FTL neutrinos! They escaped, tunneled through the Earth and did this! (kidding)

  10. Its the Gamilons! Quick! Dig up an old battleship wreck and turn it into a spacebattleship or we’re doomed! 😀

    (Those who missed one of the best 80’s cartoons ever and thus that ref. are welcome to click my name and see part of it for themselves. :-) )

  11. ali

    Nasa will not be responsible for this if it is the UARS, even they say they does not know exactly where it fell. I’m an hour from there, and friends told me they saw fire in the sky and a strong odor that can not describe.

  12. Chris

    I don’t see how that could be a meteor. As for a meteor exploding in midair, I’m pretty sure if something like that happened the infrasonic network would pick it up.

  13. Alexis

    I’m Argentinian, and here we all know that it was a piece of UARS, but no one wats to say it! We are really sad about it….

  14. Alex Monteiro

    Mr. Plaitt,

    Here’s a note from La Nación newspaper, one of the most important in Argentina:

    It says it was a very strong explosion and it was not yet possible to determine the cause.
    One woman was killed and 6 other persons were injured. The explosion was so strong that two houses collapsed, 13 other were affected and there were glass pieces two blocks away.

    This (more recent) note says that what caused the explosion is still a mistery.

    There is a statement of Mariano Ribas, coordinator of the Astronomy Department of the Buenos Aires Planetarium saying that it could be a meteorite or some sort of satellite or space waste, but it was not related to UARS.

    Guillermo Martínes Fumes, weapons engineer, believes there were no explosives involved and if it was a falling object, there will be a crater somewhere under the wreckage.

    The original texts are in spanish.
    Hope this information will help.

  15. Hugo

    In this link you can see another pictures of the fire ball:


    Very curious indeed, whit the amount of space trash currently in orbit I think that is very hard to keep track of all of it. The UARS is long gone now, but if we stop to think for one minute in all that trash up there…

    P.D.: I agree with Michael Swanson

  16. Michael Swanson

    @3. CafeenMan

    That was tasteless.

  17. As a brazilian what can I say? YUHHUU!!! RIGHT ON, Klendathu!

  18. Jason

    @9 MessierTidy … I remember Starblazers, but the memory is much better than the show. I tried to re-watch it a few years ago and I coudn’t believe how cheesy it was.

    And please remember, at no time should you stand in front of the Wave motion emitter.

  19. CraterJoe

    I’m with Sir Chaos on this one. Maybe it’s just an optical illusion but I’m seeing an arc. Looks like fuel oil burning? Ok, where are the experts…(Cue in experts)

  20. TerryS.

    Hmm. No other press about this at 12:40 EDT. One hit on the web, but it’s this page. Something fishy here, Phil.

  21. lunchstealer

    Come on, this is clearly a test shot by the bugs, before they hit Buenos Aires. Somebody get Casper Van Diem and Neil Patrick Harris on the line, stat!

  22. When I was a kid, I was out camping in Ontario when the most horrific storm I have ever witnessed hit in and around the campground. There were balls of firey lightening coming down, and rain so thick you literally couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. I remember how scary it was, especially when the morning came and we could really see the destruction. We were camped on the Canadian Shield, where there is a lot of rock not far down under the surface. Old, very tall trees with roots a block wide were coming down all over the place, a number of people were trapped in their campers or cars and had to be cut free (remarkably, no one was seriously hurt or killed). I remember how scary it was, and how impressive the forces of nature.
    It’s not hard to imagine getting a little worked up when you see something like this, wondering what caused it and in your fear, maybe you’ll get a little off. Of course my thoughts never jump to alien/conspiracy/the gov’mint, but that’s me. I can hope only for proper reporting on this one. It’s a vain hope, but someone’s got to have it.

  23. Mark

    YOU may be joking Cafeenman, but I bet some nutjobs will say exactly the same thing.

  24. Lorena

    hi phil. I posted a comment about this in your other post, about the sun, a few hours ago. The firefighters are removing the debris to find the source of the explosion. Apparentely there was no gas leak, this is a very humble and poor neirghbourhood and the house dont have gas connection. They use gas tanks, but apparently they were intact. That link to yfrog I sent you, it is supposed to be a picture of the red fire ball people saw. A woman witnessed it and claims “it lit up the sky”. This website http://tn.com.ar/ posted a picture a guy captured with his cellphone, I believe it’s not the same one from the yfrog website, but I cant tell. The police is now working with the National comission for aerospace activity, because they say they can’t rule out anything yet. Take care, Lorena.

  25. Cochise

    @TerryS #15, I noticed the same thing. Only other hit I got was from an UFO site, something is fishy.

  26. Ther is no other press here in Argentina either. Phil’s repport appears to be based on that of the biggest news agency (Telam), and the same agency has a report with witness’ declarations (http://telam.com.ar/nota/2323) and another with statements by the minister of security (http://telam.com.ar/nota/2345), this one pretty level headed (both in spanish)

    It’s not clear that the explosion was caused by any flying thing and not the opposite, i.e. something went up after the explosion.

  27. Rabidmob

    While the picture doesn’t look like a meteorite fit at all, an air burst of a small meteorite could be possible.

    Of course a terrestrial explosion could also kick something fiery up…

  28. Brooke

    All of the conspiracies are really scaring me. Add these odd stories and I’m getting anxiety. Please let us know if you find out anything. I’ll be living in fear until we are in 2013-2014.

  29. Dozens of people in different places saw the fireball falling. The people in the neighborhood heard a whistle (“whoosh!”), then a huge explosion. Several injured, and a peruvian or paraguayan (not clear) woman died. The investigators have discarded a gas depot explosion (original theory) and some are considering space junk (not necessarily a piece of UARS) or an extremely small micro-comet.

    Source: local media.

  30. Sir Chaos

    BTW, what´s the 16″8 thing in the lower right of the video? If the 6:55 next to it is the time of day, it would suggest it´s the date… but then the video would be over a month old.

  31. Lorena

    16º8 is the temperature in celsius degrees. that was this morning, now it is like 27º

  32. rantiko

    This is a new image of the object that hit the house.
    Look carefully.

  33. Skeptic

    How easy would it be for NASA to fudge the numbers and give us a false trajectory path for the satellite? I’m not saying this is what they’ve done but, that said, I am curious on how much easier it would be to do that rather than accepting responsibiity and paying for the damages.. It’s not like anyone can cross examine their findings and prove them to be lieing, right? We kinda have to take them at their word..

  34. mike

    If any object came from the sky , i t would be an IMPACT or impact and explotion and rests of it could be seen all over…even a crater on the ground !
    Nothing of that nature it seems to be in this story..perhaps an explotion of those gasof some sort bottles showed in the video?…..

  35. Skeptic

    Not to mention that the data for the thing changed how many times??

  36. Adam

    @35 Considering the numerous websites that keep track of things like this, the caches of that data all over the world, amateur astronomers who track debris, especially if it’s falling because they can… I’d say fudging and covering up would be more or less impossible these days.

  37. Assume for the moment that it was satellite debris that caused this.

    Why would it be NASA’s fault?

    The USA is not the only country with a mountain’s worth of satellites and related space junk up there.

  38. Thopter

    So we can safely say that it wasn’t the bugs from Klendathu testing their aim?

  39. Robin Byron

    Natural gas explosion and someone will find a split open propane tank about 150+ meters from the damaged homes accounting for the arcing fireball.

    My two cents and 24 years of firefighting experience.

  40. Digital Atheist

    @10 All hail Yamato!

  41. Richard

    just wanted to say that there may be no crater becuse a meteor can expode in the air wich will definatly cause damage but leave no crator. a small meteor the size of a baseball would explode with more force the a stick of dynomite.

  42. Skeptic
  43. Bette Noir

    While they have found intact propane tanks, my bet is that, once they get under the wreckage, they’ll find shards of another propane tank, the one that exploded. Five gallons of propane can easily take out half a city block; I remember exactly that happening in Los Angeles a few decades back.

  44. chris j.

    it’s hard for me to see that a meteorite impact would’ve done this; for it to have been big enough to cause this much devastation, there would’ve been a big crater as well (like the one that hit in Peru a couple of years back). None is evident, so I’m strongly of the opinion something more terrestrial was to blame here.

    any good astronomer should immediately think tunguska when there’s a report of a fireball leaving no impact crater or obvious debris.

  45. D Hunt

    @ Skeptic
    It’d be easy as pie to prove them lying if it was a piece of the UARS. Just find the piece in the wreckage.

  46. mike burkhart

    You got me thinking about the 1908 Tangusta blast.Are there any simulartys ? I liked Star Blazers to when I a kid, in the frist story about Earth fighting a war with the planet called Gamelon , in witch Gamalon used Bombs that turned the Earths surface so raidoactive that life was nearly destroyed. A planet call Escandar offers to help with a machine that can remove the radition but the earthmen had to come and get the machine . The surpise at the end Escandar and Gamelon are in the same solar system and are twin planets! The second story the Earth is the next planet that the Comet Empire ( so called because its leaders travel in a hallowed out comet that is realy a big space craft) wants to conquer. There was a Third story I think but I never saw it.

  47. Skeptic

    Haha very true.. How much is a plane ticket to Argentina?? 😛 (kidding) and @ Chris j I was thinking the same thing when I read that part

  48. areanfg

    Hi, i´m from argentina. I live at 6km (3,7miles) from the site, and i listened a masive explosion. The windows shook. I twitted it, but was late (2:15 am) and everybody was sleeping. Explosions by gas, are common here in argentina, so fire department knows well, when are explosion caused by gas. In that house, only were gas tubes, because there aren’t gas ducts. Near the house, are powerlines, maybe that caused the blue fireball after the red explosion. Sorry about my english. Greetings from the third world!

    areanfg, Lomas de Zamora

  49. Lorena

    Update: News channels are reporting that the main hypothesis is gas explosion. Even though several gas tanks were found intact, the police and firefighters are taking parts of a pizza oven and a 45kg gas tank for further investigation. They are still removing debris.

  50. Jeff C

    But didn’t I read in another of Phil’s posts that the speed of the falling satellite debris would be around 30 miles per hour and that the pieces aren’t supposed to be that large? The pictures seem to show evidence of a pretty large explosion and no impact crater. I think it was a terrestrial explosion and a lot of imagination.

  51. @23. Mark Says:
    September 26th, 2011 at 10:49 am

    “YOU may be joking Cafeenman, but I bet some nutjobs will say exactly the same thing.”

    That was exactly my point. I work with people who still believe the full moon causes more people to come in even after I’ve shown them for years using actual numbers that we get FEWER people during full moons. And when they move the goal posts and say that it’s not more people it’s how “crazy” it is I ask them to explain all the craziness at other times. They actually say it doesn’t count. Obviously because if it counted they would have to find something else magical to believe instead.

  52. John A

    Are you sure about that, that it would take a big crater to light a simple grass fire that then spread? I have seen first hand meteors that have fallen and broken apart as it neared the surface around me. It is not very hard to imagine a small piece still burning or hot enough to ignite a dry area.

  53. Paul

    When you hear hoofbeats, do you think horses, or unicorns?

  54. dwpb

    Here is a video with audio.. http://youtu.be/lIEPLCBsoNQ
    They still don’t know what cause it, until they remove all the debris.
    Witnesses said they saw as the whole sky was lit up and then the explosion..

  55. CR

    @10: “We’re off to outer space…” Classic show, and still one of my faves.

    @55: Well, some people think zebras, but I get your point.

  56. Keith Bowden

    This just in: a large object has been found under the rubble.

    What I can see of the… object itself doesn’t look very much like a meteor, at least not the meteors I’ve seen. It looks more like a huge cylinder. It has a diameter of… about thirty yards… The metal on the sheath is… well, I’ve never seen anything like it. The color is sort of yellowish-white. Curious spectators now are pressing close to the object in spite of the efforts of the police to keep them back…

    Just a minute! Something’s happening! Ladies and gentlemen, this is terrific! This end of the thing is beginning to flake off! The top is beginning to rotate like a screw! The thing must be hollow… This is the most terrifying thing I have ever witnessed… Wait a minute! Someone’s crawling out of the hollow top. Someone or… something. I can see peering out of that black hole two luminous disks… are they eyes? It might be a face. It might be…

    Good heavens, something’s wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now it’s another one, and another. They look like tentacles to me. There, I can see the thing’s body. It’s large, large as a bear and it glistens like wet leather. But that face, it… Ladies and gentlemen, it’s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate. The monster or whatever it is can hardly move. It seems weighed down by… possibly gravity or something. The thing’s raising up. The crowd falls back now. They’ve seen plenty. This is the most extraordinary experience. I can’t find words…

    A humped shape is rising out of the pit. I can make out a small beam of light against a mirror. What’s that? There’s a jet of flame springing from the mirror, and it leaps right at the advancing men. It strikes them head on! Good Lord, they’re turning into flame!

    Now… the gas tanks of automobiles… it’s spreading everywhere. It’s coming this way. About twenty yards to my right…

  57. uudale
  58. Skeptic

    I hope 59 was a joke lmao

  59. Ian S

    @skeptic says,
    ummmm, the big chunks of satellite that would be left at the bottom of the crater and scattered around the area would be kinda of a big give away dontcha think…. not to mention that the Argentinian military would get some thumping big radar returns of the plasma trail left by the satellite during re-entry and might have a few words to say on the matter….

  60. astor

    “Hi Phil
    Nothing fell from the sky, this was invented by the media some hours after. This house fall because of same structural problem, probably helped by an explosion of a gas cooker.
    Today is boring Monday in Argentina and the media need news to work…..
    Carlos Feinstein
    La Plata

    Absolutely lie. Are you a freemason?

  61. alex

    its pretty obvious that it was part of that satellite! what a coincidence ?

  62. Pete Jackson

    A Tungaska analogy would imply a very bright fireball coming down through the atmosphere before exploding near the ground. The fireball would be visible for a considerable distance and would have lit up the sky for everyone in Buenos Aires.

  63. Sir Chaos

    @#51: Hardly Third World any more, Lomas. I visited Buenos Aires last year, it´s an amazing city… just a little too big for my taste, sorry 😉

  64. Gary

    @59. Keith Bowden,

    I hope it’s cold season down in Argentina.

  65. Chris

    I remember reading about the Tunguska event that it was bright enough to read by and also the vivid sunsets due to the debris and ice in the upper atmosphere. Also any explosion should have been picked up by the infrasonic network. Basically one big compression wave.

  66. CharlyUY

    In Tunguska in 1908 it was an explosion with no crater nor debris and a huge
    devastation, if it was a fireball, it might have exploded several meters above the floor and the
    shockwave caused the damage with no crater.

    In this case it should be some portions of the object disseminated several hounder
    meters around the impact area. Remember the Sudan fireball 3 years ago I guess.

  67. dwpb

    The picture is fake.. According to Argentinian newspapers on line, the guy that took the picture was detained, and the investigators are actually thinking it was a clandestine natural gas connection that blew up. The people that were living in the house apparently were illegal immigrants from Peru in Argentina.. (Yes, they got illegal immigrants there too.. Since the 1990’s there were a great immigration to Argentina from the more poor countries of South America like Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay)

  68. CharlyUY

    the man in the video mention a bright light that blind the neighbors and then the explosion, the firemen talks about fog and dust floating in the air when they arrived, too big area for an explosion of a gas tank, all seems to indicate (apart of the picture of the firewall) that it was meteor exploding in the air near these houses, I believe the airport’s and military radars should have records of this event, they should look for security cameras in the streets of different part of the city that could have recorded the even in the sky, also look for debris with meteor like appearance, is needed experts in this area, police and firemen are not prepared for that search.

  69. Calli Arcale

    Skeptic @ 61: yes, that’s a joke. He’s quoting from “War of the Worlds”. (The radio play version, not the original book.)

    This definitely can’t be UARS; far too much devastation for that. I suspect the cause will prove to be terrestrial.

  70. deady

    Confirmed, the picture is false and the author was arrested.
    the cause of the explosion was an improperly installed gas cylinder

    http://www.infobae.com/notas/607835-Detuvieron-al-hombre-que-vio-el-cometa-y-centran-las-pericias-sobre-las-garrafas.html (es)

  71. CraterJoe

    #42. Robin Byron. Thank you, I was guessing a gas explosion but I’m no expert. Also, you made me realize I assumed the fireball was *before* the explosion without asking “Was the fireball during or right after the explosion”. I guess I need to think more critically. :)

  72. LSandman24

    Anyone else remember the scene in Christmas Vacation after Randy Quaid empties the septic tank of his RV into the storm drain which is later ignited by a lit cigar?

    I bet this disaster was Griswold-induced as well. :-)

  73. First a bright flash, and then an explosion. How far away were these witnesses? At 300m the sky would light up a full second before the explosion was heard.

  74. TomF

    Note – if there is one thing in the average house most likely to survive an exploding gas canister, it would be another gas canister. Reality isn’t like the movies – they don’t chain-react except under very specific circumstances. Finding intact ones doesn’t mean there isn’t another one that blew.

  75. zor


  76. maria

    The man who posted the photo was arrested by police officers and he told the truth: a complete lie!!!!. Really idiotic. I think (without any knowledge) that it’s a very big explosion , and the actual explanation about a gas leak doesn’t make sense to me.

  77. meteor

    Propane gas leak, and a big explosion. Nothing came from outer space. That meteorite picture was, in fact, a cigarette.

  78. MadScientist

    It sounds like a gas explosion to me. Gas bottles are not the only source of gas – landfill material and sewers can generate enough gas to get such an explosion. For some unlucky folks, enough gas simply seeps through the ground from a leaky natural reservoir. I’ve also heard the “descending flame” story but you can reproduce that effect by releasing a lot of natural gas, igniting it, and watching what happens in slow motion. A blue flame is consistent with natural gas with a good air mixture (closer to the lower explosive limit rather than the upper explosive limit).

    Hmm .. deady@73 already confirmed it was gas (and from a gas tank at that).

  79. tried2tellu

    The funniest thing about this whole article is the NASA knows about nibiru and the blue Kachina…. what i mean is people open your eyes and stair really hard at the pic of the astronaut looking right at them in the headline!!!! lol if this aint telling you something!!! lol.. i don’t know what ever will..

  80. Maybe that was Optimus Prime

  81. areanfg

    I’m back. The lastest evidences point to a gas explosion under rare conditions (the near power lines and a good air mixture) Radiation wasn´t found, no impact, nothing, only a gas oven to cook pizza. The blue explosions maybe was debris impacting the powerline. Not Elenin, not a meteor, not Bluebeam Proyect; only a gas oven and bad luck.


    Lomas de Zamora, Argentina.

  82. Buzz Parsec

    For people interested in actual facts, no artificial satellites large enough to have caused this and in orbits low enough to have reentered recently exist. Satellites don’t just spontaneously drop out of orbit. It takes months or years of drag from the upper atmosphere to make them reenter. All satellites larger than a few inches are tracked by radar, and NASA and other groups routinely predict when they will reenter. Jonathan McDowell has a list of the larger objects on his web site, and you can look them up individually at sites like Heavens Above to get detailed information about orbits, when they’ll pass overhead, etc. Much of this information comes from and is confirmed by international sources and independent observers, so a NASA or US government cover-up would be impossible.

    When a satellite reenters, it slows to terminal velocity, at most a few hundred kilometers/hour and definitely sub-sonic, long before it hits the ground. The damage it would cause is about the same as an airplane of the same mass crashing, except most satellites carry little or no fuel, and most airplanes are stuffed to the gills with gasoline or jet fuel (so a small but loaded airplane would do much more damage.) To do this much damage, a satellite would have to have 10s of tons of mass survive reentry. Something like UARS, breaking up into many pieces (which is typical), would be scattered over many square kilometers, and no one piece would be large enough to do anything like this. Also, there would be lots of other smaller pieces in the area.

    As to UARS in particular, the last reported orbit (which is totally consistent with all previous reports, confirmed by many independent observers) was 135 x 140 km, at about 0230 GMT Saturday. Even if it had exploded at apogee, it is physically impossible for any fragment to have had a perigee greater than 140 km (90 miles). No object with a perigee that low can survive more than one or two orbits. Even with an extremely high apogee, the fragments would have all reentered withing 12 to 24 hours. (There is no evidence of any such explosion, and no debris was tracked in any orbit that could be attributable to UARS, but such an explosion is the only way to have prevented some fragment of UARS to have survived more than a few hours.) The Argentina incident occurred more than a day too late to have been caused by UARS.

    Reentry would have come near perigee, which would have been at approximately the same latitude as the explosion, which would have had to occur while UARS was over the northern Pacific or Canada. (The post-explosion orbits of the fragments would be ellipses with the perigee at the point of the explosion. The Earth would be rotating under the fragments, so subsequent perigees could occur at any longitude, but the latitude would always be 45 to 55 degrees North.)

    tl;dr: There’s no way it was UARS.

    A natural object (such as a comet or meteoroid) enters the atmosphere at a much higher velocity and with much more energy (e=(1/2)mv^2) than a satellite and, if dense and massive enough, can reach the ground at much higher than its terminal velocity. It could do extensive damage, especially if it exploded in the lower atmosphere. Tunguska was an immensely larger event than this, though. It didn’t make a crater or leave any identifiable debris, but it knocked down trees (all pointed directly away from the blast center) for 50 to 70 kilometers, and was recorded on seismographs throughout Europe and Asia. Tunguska occurred over soggy, swampy soil with many peat bogs and small lakes. Any surviving meteorites could have easily been swallowed up, especially since it was 13 years before an expedition reached the site. The Argentina site is in a populated area, the terrain is definitely firm enough to build houses on, and fire investigators are already examining the wreckage. I don’t think there’s any danger of debris from either a satellite or meteorite being missed.

    It’s looking increasingly like a propane explosion, so most of my post is probably completely irrelevant, but maybe the next time something like this happens, people will look back at this incident and this will help them answer or at least ask the right questions.

  83. rey

    Let’s ask Nasa. If somebody really wants to believe that the satelite fell into the Pacific when nobody really knows where and how long it would take for all the pieces to fall.Strange coincidence a ball of fire from the sky 2 days after Nasa says its in the pacific.Now Nasa monitored every inch of the sat and knows it all went down in the same time and the same place right? WE ALL BELIEVE THIS RIGHT? EVEN THE LADY WHO LOST HER LIFE BELIEVES THIS!!!! NOW HOW IS NASA GOING TO GIVE THAT BACK!!!MAYBE IN 30 YEARS THE TRUTH WILL COME OUT. THIS IS SPACE JUNK MURDER!!!!

  84. Messier Tidy Upper

    @18. Jason :

    @9 MessierTidy … I remember Starblazers, but the memory is much better than the show. I tried to re-watch it a few years ago and I coudn’t believe how cheesy it was.

    Well, yeah, there’s always a nostalgia factor at work with memories of old shows and, yeah, it was cheesy at times but StarBlazers was still a superluminous cartoon and I still love it. :-)

    The music is pretty timeless and emotionally powerful too.

    And please remember, at no time should you stand in front of the Wave motion emitter.

    Too right! :-)

    @58. CR & #43. Digital Atheist : :-)

  85. @ 59. Keith Bowden :

    “… This just in: a large object has been found under the rubble. What I can see of the… object itself doesn’t look very much like a meteor, at least not the meteors I’ve seen. It looks more like a huge cylinder. .. [snip.] .. Just a minute! Something’s happening! Ladies and gentlemen, this is terrific! This end of the thing is beginning to flake off! The top is beginning to rotate like a screw! The thing must be hollow…”

    Classic! Great one. 😀

    @72. Calli Arcale :

    Skeptic @ 61: yes, that’s a joke. He’s quoting from “War of the Worlds”. (The radio play version, not the original book.)

    Actually reminds me more of the Jeff Wayne Musical version. 😉

    @56. Paul : “When you hear hoofbeats, do you think horses, or unicorns?”

    Depends what show I’m watching really! 😉

  86. jesse

    its definetly could have been a meteor they can sometimes explode before hitting the ground. this happened once in the early 1900s over a forrest and the explosion scorched almost every acre of the forest

  87. michael rollen

    This is very strange. I live in fl.. and I have seen the exact object.. A large meteor, and what seemed to be blue..but when I seen it. It was about 10:45 Sept 25 2010. Would really like answers. Also its was very low. But herd no impact so had to be more the 200 miles if it had impacted…


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