The sight of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) rocket burning up upon re-entry over the skies of Britain baffled some onlookers on the night of September 27, 2021.
At approximately 22:15 BST (21:15 UTC), an eerie triangular shaped light could be seen in the night sky across parts of the UK and northern Europe.
Gutted I missed this tonight! RT @chimpaction: @virtualastro @BadAstronomer @AberdeenAstro Seen in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Looked like it was falling or travelling away from me. Lasted for a couple of minutes. Any ideas? #ufo #thetruthisoutthere pic.twitter.com/npRE7ijP0j
— VirtualAstro (@VirtualAstro) September 27, 2021
— JR CHUO (@jrchuoart) September 27, 2021
However, it was not a UFO, but a rocket on an Earth science mission for NASA. ULA launched the Atlas V rocket carrying the Landsat 9 mission for NASA, from Vandenberg Space Force Base on September 27 at 11:12 am PDT (18:12 UTC).
It was the 88th launch of the Atlas V rocket and the mission marked the first four-burn Centaur mission for ULA on an Atlas V rocket.
Once the payloads had been released into orbit the fourth burn enabled a maneuver “to dispose of the stage in a safe manner that does not contribute to space debris or cause an uncontrolled re-entry,” according to ULA’s website.
The Landsat mission orbits around Earth, providing observations to help monitor, understand and manage Earth’s natural resources.
The re-entry on September 27, 2021 provided some spectacular photographs for those lucky enough to glimpse it.
The #Centaur upper stage from the #Landsat6 launch performing it’s #deorbit burn over the British coast.
Photographed from #Leiden, the Netherlands at 23:12:07 CEST (21:12:07 UT) with a Canon EOS 80D + EF 2.0/35 mm lens, 1s at 2500 ISO pic.twitter.com/YPcMJ7ZzMw
— Dr Marco Langbroek x2 #Vaccinate (@Marco_Langbroek) September 27, 2021