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Strange fireballs in the night sky
December 17, 2001
After the recent Leonid meteor storm, skywatchers have been hungry for more shooting stars. Recently they got one. On the night of Dec. 1st, a sensational fireball glided over the US Midwest, automobile traffic stopped, airline pilots peered in amazement through cockpit windows, and emergency phone lines were jammed. Airline passenger Rick Bordignon snapped these photos of the fireball from a window seat on US Airways Flight 612 from Philadelphia to Las Vegas. Was it a meteor? A UFO? Nope. It was the remains of a Russian Proton rocket that had left Earth only 10 hours earlier, carrying three navigation satellites to orbit. The satellites were deployed successfully, but pieces of the rocket fell back to Earth and disintegrated.
image: Rick Bordignon/NASA

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