Air raid sirens menacingly rang out across Kyiv on Wednesday night as a blinding flash of light streaked across the dark skies over the Ukrainian capital. Fearing an airstrike from Russia, authorities advised residents to take shelter—but it now appears the panic may have been triggered by something altogether stranger.
Initially, some reports suggested that the glare might have been the result of a NASA satellite burning up in the atmosphere. The retired Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI) satellite was predicted to crash to Earth sometime on Wednesday. But at the time of the flash, a NASA spokesperson said, the satellite had still been in orbit.
On Thursday, officials in Ukraine say they think they’ve finally gotten an answer. “We cannot identify what it was exactly, but our assumption is that it was a meteorite,” Igor Korniyenko, the deputy head of a control center at Ukraine’s space agency said. He added that experts still did not have enough data to figure out “the exact nature” of what led to the fiery display. “Our observation devices showed it was a powerful explosion. We recorded it and determined where it took place,” Korniyenko added.
In an update on its Telegram channel on Wednesday, the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said it too had preliminary suspected the flash had been caused by “the fall of a satellite/meteorite.”
“Currently, there is no threat of the enemy using air attack means in this direction,” it added.
At around the same time that the strange light appeared, however, the Air Force said there really was a Russian drone attack taking place in southeastern Ukraine. It said it was carrying out “intensive combat work” at the same time that “social networks are amused by memes with flying saucers.” The military branch also asked that people “not use official Air Force insignia to create memes for the enemy to enjoy.”
The Air Force said it shot down 10 out of 11 Shahed “attack drones” which had been launched against Ukraine. “We continue to fight for our heaven and earth, and we will definitely defeat the occupier,” it added in an update Thursday.