Best video of Soyuz rocket burning up so far

By Phil Plait | December 26, 2011 7:00 am

Assuming you had other things on your mind this past weekend, you may have missed the foofooraw of a Russian rocket booster that re-entered over Europe on Saturday. It was part of a rocket that took new crew up to the International Space Station a few days ago, and was expected to come back down at that time. It was seen by a lot of people, because it happened at 5:30 p.m. local time on a clear night, so a lot of folks were out. It was also bright and spectacular… as you can see for yourself in this amazing footage taken in Germany:

Pretty cool, isn’t it? Make sure to set it to the highest resolution, and make it full screen. When it’s in focus (cameras sometimes have a hard time focusing on objects at infinity) you can see parts of the booster breaking off and making their own trails as they burn up. The bright star passed by the fireball is Jupiter (the two stars above it are part of Aries), and then you can see it pass under the Pleiades, and then the bright star Aldebaran in Taurus.

There are lots of other videos of this amazing event; a search on YouTube will show you quite a few. This one shows the smaller pieces better than any video I’ve seen so far, though.

Things like this happen pretty often, but not generally over heavily populated areas at such an opportune time in the evening. To my knowledge, no one has ever been seriously hurt or killed by falling debris like this; what you’re seeing is happening very high in the atmosphere, and most of the pieces burn up. Keep in mind, too, the Russian Phobos-Grunt spacecraft — which was supposed to go to Mars, but never left Earth orbit — will be coming back down in early January. Reports on exactly when still vary a bit, and we don’t know where it will re-enter. I’ll have more on that when I know more.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Space

Comments (18)

  1. Steve

    Eerily similar to the videos of the shuttle breaking up over south Texas!

  2. I heard someone say that they saw Comet Lovejoy in Denmark. I think that I now know what they saw. And yes, I did mention that Lovejoy is only visible in the southern hemisphere, and that only in the early morning anyway.

  3. Mike Saunders

    I heard junk was landing in Nambia too, a lot of stuff falling from the sky lately.

  4. MichaelL

    When I was about 16 or 17, so this was in the early 1980’s, I was riding my bike home from my girlfriends house at about 1:30AM. I was on a dark road, and all of a sudden the sky seemed to light up. I looked up and saw a flaming object tumbling and breaking up, very much like this. The next day, I called the RCMP and asked if they had received any other reports at that time. Turns out they had and they were trying to contact the Royal Canadian Air Force about it. Several hours later I got a call back. Turns out it was a Russian booster re entering the atmosphere. Needless to say, at 1:30AM it scared the bejeesus out of me. I started pedaling faster, screaming, “You won’t get me!”

  5. Grisha

    Over Germany? The commenter on the video is Russian. At one point he says “that’s not a comet, it’s some kind of a satellite…”

  6. Years ago I saw a a huge fire ball. It was about the size of your fist at arms length. It was a Russian booster stage, it sure freaked out my girlfriend, I recall it was all over the local news the next day. Funny thing I guessed ot was a rocket but never thought I would see something like that, it was a fantastic site!

  7. Granted that it’s extremely rare for anyone to be hurt by falling space debris, but sooner or later there will be a serious incident, possibly involving a great deal of fatalities, and when that happens it’s inevitable that there will be a massive backlash – first from the press, and then the public, against all spacefaring endeavours no matter how beneficial the project. That’s the human condition unfortunately; mainly apathy until something goes wrong, then the proverbial excrement engages with the extractor. I just hope it won’t happen for a long long time. The odds may be on our side for now, but there’s a lot of junk up there and more going up every day. The odds are shortening.

  8. Reminded me of the part in your book “death from the skies” where a meteor destroys earth. Would a small fragment of a larger, trailing, meteor about to hit us look like this? :-)

  9. Digital Atheist

    Damnitalltohades why don’t i ever get to see great stuff like this?

  10. It went straight over my head.

    Literally and figuratively. Damn.


    Like Americans and Dutchies, you can find Russians everywhere.

  11. André

    The snowflakes-effect makes it extra special! ūüėČ

  12. Jana Stern

    The best video I saw so far about the Soyuz Rocket Reentry is this one from Germany:

  13. Henk

    There was a Dutch astronaut on board of that Soyuz, so there has really been a lot of attention for this mission in the Dutch media. To have a part of the vehicle do a spectacular re-entry above the Netherlands is a very nice present. (that again made headlines in the news) Too bad I missed it…

  14. ChileVerde

    Fobos-Grunt: Looking like the very middle of January, nominally 15-16 with an even more nominal uncertainty of four days.

  15. Jason Sheroan

    Henk, are you saying a Dutch Astronaut was riding in that fireball? Or rather the Soyez made it, but had to jettison it’s booster i.e the video? Sorry if I missed the details …


  16. Jason Sheroan

    Oh…I think understand now. There was a problem AND the problematic booster was what fell to Earth. Nevermind the post, Mod!



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