UAE: Spotted a 'mysterious flying object' last night? Expert explains what it could be

Residents captured video of the moving space element and posted it online


Nandini Sircar

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Image used for illustrative purposes.
Image used for illustrative purposes.

Published: Thu 22 Sep 2022, 5:13 PM

Last updated: Thu 22 Sep 2022, 5:57 PM

Some Dubai residents on Wednesday night spotted a bright 'mysterious flying object' hurtling through the night sky and were left wondering if it was a UFO or some meteor shower.

The uncanny object spooked some residents. Many people captured video of the moving space element and posted it online with several intriguing and amusing comments; one even terming it as a "night sky diver."

Astronomy experts in the UAE pointed out that there is 'nothing worrying' about the object blazing through the sky as it was 'space junk'.

When Khaleej Times reached out to Hasan Al Hariri, CEO-Dubai Astronomy Group, he explained, “What everyone saw was space debris. When we talk about meteors, they move very fast. As it moves crossing the sky, from Earth it appears as a flash lasting for a few seconds. Let’s take the example of the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor. It came to the atmosphere very fast, and it exploded causing massive devastation. The shock wave it generated shattered glass and injured hundreds of people.”

The Chelyabinsk meteor was a small asteroid that was about the size of a six-story building and broke up over the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February 2013.

After this incident Nasa established a Planetary Defense Coordination Office that takes data from the agency’s Near-Earth Object observations program.

The office is said to be responsible for tracking potentially hazardous objects, communicating information about the same and also leading the coordination of a response in case there is a threat.

Meteor versus space debris

Hariri then points out that it can be challenging for an average person to understand the difference between meteors and space debris.

He also explained that space launches now have plans for safe vehicle re-entry at the end of life, coming down in a known zone down-range of the launch pad so that it doesn’t lead to a cascade of space junk.

He added, “So, when we talk about things that are man-made and coming down from space, such things are controlled. Scientists and controllers of space stations or probes, do the manoeuvring in a specified way with regards to speed and location and where it will fall without harming people and habitation.

"When these objects enter the Earth’s atmosphere it disintegrates and that breaking up process will ignite smaller pieces and it looks like what people saw recently. This also moves slowly in the sky. People can visualise it moving and eventually it comes down to the sea if something big is left from that burning process. But in most cases, nothing will fall on people. These are the distinctive ways to understand whether what we are witnessing is space debris or if it’s a meteor.”


Shedding light on another distinctive characteristic, Hariri said that most meteors may burn and disintegrate with a rainbow of colours as it contains many elements that are typically present in all types of metals whether iron, steel or alloy.

He says, “When meteors fall, they create a strike and there will be a distinctive colour as per its composition. It can be red, green, blue, or a flashy white depending on the amount of the material that constitutes the meteor. When we speak about space debris, they are chunky, it’s not one object. There will be several objects which fall gradually.”

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