This article originally appeared on VICE India
While overzealous believers are busy planning their raid on Area 51 to “see them aliens”, many folks in Australia were convinced that a strange, bright light that suddenly beamed in the sky on the night of July 22, was a UFO sighting. This was first reported by a local councillor named Shauna Rayes on ABC News Facebook page, who said that about 160 people around her spotted the light in the sky. "It was quite a bright, unusual light with a tail on it. It was travelling north-east and we watched it for probably two or three minutes before it faded out. We had no idea what it was. It was really unusual,” she said.
Another man named Jacob Blunt also posted a video of the flashing light and commented saying, "I thought it was a UFO, so I tried to shoot it with my Nerf gun.”
But what some Australians believed was potential alien activity was most probably Chandrayaan-2, India’s moon-bound satellite that was launched on the same day. Jonti Horner, an astrophysics professor at the University of Southern Queensland, was the first to point out on the Facebook post that, ”Looking at the footage, it looks like what you get when a spacecraft above the atmosphere engages its rockets and does a burn. It's way too slow-moving to be a meteor. The consensus seems to be it's the Indian mission to the moon." People came to this conclusion given that Chandrayaan-2 had launched into action at 2.43 pm, and given that the 17-minute launch mission’s trajectory showed that it was bound to enter the Southern Hemisphere where Australia is situated and that the land down under is five hours ahead, it only made sense for the sighting that occurred at about 7.30 pm Australia time to be Chandrayaan-2.
However, not everyone is quite convinced. Space expert Dr Morris Jones told SBS news, “I am not sure what caused the lights, but I do not think it was the Indian launch. The Indian rocket had finished its burn and the spacecraft had separated from it over the Indian Ocean. This was nowhere near the sightings.” However, Jonathan McDowell—an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics—said it was not the burning, but the venting of residual propellant that caused the lights in the sky.
While this reveal has left most people over the moon about the earth not getting invaded by outer space dwellers anytime soon, many, like Professor Horner, have also pointed out that while something similar probably happened during the Apollo-11 launch, the lack of a proper platform for providing instant information at the time meant that everyone who assumed it was aliens believed in their theory for a long time. Today, however, light might travel fast but information travels even faster.
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