Flash of light above Kyiv sparks buzz about falling satellite, aliens

The Kyiv city military administration said the bright light and flaming object was a crashing NASA satellite, but NASA denied this.

 UFO (illustrative). (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
UFO (illustrative).
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The night sky above wartime Kyiv was lit up by a flash of light on Wednesday, social media channels said, prompting speculation that a crashing satellite or even aliens might be responsible. However, other sources indicated it was likely a meteorite.

Four short video clips posted to a Telegram channel by journalist and blogger Anatolii Sharii showed the sky suddenly illuminated by a bright light.

In one clip, a flaming object appeared to be crashing to the ground.

Is it aliens? A crashing NASA satellite? A meteorite?

The footage prompted several memes about aliens and unidentified flying objects. The Kyiv city military administration, citing what it called preliminary information, said it was a crashing NASA satellite.

A NASA spokesman denied this, saying there appeared to be some confusion over an earlier announcement the agency had made about bringing a retired satellite out of orbit in the early hours of Thursday morning Kyiv time.

 UFO (illustrative). (credit: RAWPIXEL) UFO (illustrative). (credit: RAWPIXEL)

The Ukrainian air force, responsible for trying to down missiles and drones fired by Russia, said a satellite or a meteorite could be responsible.

"Please do not use official air force symbols to create memes for the enemy to enjoy!"

Ukrainian air force

"Please do not use official air force symbols to create memes for the enemy to enjoy!" it said in a message.

Minutes earlier, presidential adviser Andriy Yermak had posted an emoji of a UFO.

Regardless of the theories, the Ukrainian military didn't seem to think it was a Russian attack, noting that while air raid sirens did go off, Kyiv military administration head Serhiy Popko took to Telegram to assure residents that there were no air defenses being called into effect, the BBC reported.

So what was it?

According to the Ukrainian language Telegram channel Alpha Centauri, the lights and fireball were likely caused by a bolide meteorite, a term used for a very bright meteor that is visible even during the day. The light is caused by the ionized atmosphere, heated up by the meteor’s impact.

A similar meteorite struck the Earth in northeast Israel just last weekend, causing a fireball visible even from the center of the country during the day.

Meteors originate from asteroids or other large bodies in space. Asteroids under a meter in size are simply known as meteoroids.

When meteoroids or very small asteroids impact the Earth’s atmosphere, they become visible but largely disintegrate, sometimes forming bright fireballs in the process. Anything left upon impact is what is known as a meteorite.

This explosion is what usually befalls most meteors that enter the Earth’s atmosphere.

Aaron Reich contributed to this report.