Mysterious fireball was part of Soyuz
Berlin - The mysterious fireball observed above Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and France on Christmas Eve was the re-entry of the third stage of a Soyuz rocket that transported three astronauts to space, the Royal Observatory of Belgium said on Sunday.
A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying the astronauts - Oleg Kononenko of Russia, Andre Kuipers of the Netherlands and Don Pettit of the United States - to the International Space Station, lifted off on Wednesday from Kazakhstan's Baikonour space centre.
On Saturday, a trail of bright light moving rapidly across the sky was observed by many people in Germany and was initially thought to be a meteorite, according to a German aerospace official.
"It is a close assumption that it could have been a meteorite, but that remains unconfirmed," Andreas Schuetz, the spokesperson of German aerospace centre DLR, told dpa.
He did not exclude the fact that it could also have been space debris - about 60-70 tons of space junk reach Earth each year.
On Christmas Eve, listeners called in to the radio station Antenne Thueringen to report the puzzling streak of light in the sky.
Some witnesses said that at about 16:30 GMT they saw three glowing dots with a long tail, which then split up into several parts. According to Scheutz, many witnesses said it was a shining red light, while others claimed to have seen a white-hot streak.
One listener told the radio station: "Very nice, it was very impressive."
Another said: "We saw the light spectacle on the way home from church. Our daughter thought it was Santa Claus' coach with a moose."