When I caught the title “Major Breakup Event Over Australia,” I wasn’t sure whether it was referring to a celebrity relationship or a political disagreement… exploding rocket booster was not the first thing that came to mind. But what a spectacular breakup it was!
The “flaming plume” was apparently quite a site for those in the southern hemisphere that happened to be looking up that night (Feb. 19th). Ray Palmer took this amazing 30 minute exposure.
The Russian booster (shown below) had been purposelessly orbiting the earth for the last year after the rocket carrying a communications satellite into space malfunctioned. This sent the booster into orbit partially filled with fuel. The “major breakup over Australia” turned out to be the explosion of its fuel tanks, according to spaceweather.com.
The booster exploded into over hundreds of pieces that will eventually fall toward earth as a meteor shower. Check out this cool video of some of the fragments by Rob McNaught.