Friday, 9 October 2020

No, this reentry footage is not a fireball that appeared over Mexico on September 6/7

 

 

On 7 September 2020 near 2:14 UT (6 September 22:14 local time) a bright fireball appeared over Mexico, creating some media attention. As part of that attention, a video surfaced and was widely  retweeted, purporting to show this fireball. The image above is a screenshot of this video.

However: the object on this video is not the fireball from 7 September 2020

It is an 'old' recycled video from July 2020, showing a space debris reentry.

The video shows a very slow fragmenting object that is clearly reentering space debris. There was something familiar to it, which was one thing that raised my suspicion (I thought I had seen it before). The other thing that raised my suspicion was that this video clearly does not show the same object as other videos that showed up, which show the genuine September 7 fireball (like this one) .

Doing a Google Reverse Image Search quickly turned up Reddit posts from July 2020 (e.g. this one), featuring this same video, indicating that the footage was at least 2.5 months old (and hence definitely not the fireball of 7 September, confirming my suspicions).

The video does show a genuine reentry. The reentry in question happend on July 18th, 2020. The Reddit post linked above is from that date. Other video's of clearly the same reentry that was also seen from the USA posted on that date exist too.

And this is why the video looked so familiar to me: back in July I already identified footage of the same reentry as the reentry of a Russian Soyuz rocket stage (2019-079C), the second stage from the Soyuz rocket that launched the military Kosmos 2542 satellite on 25 November 2019. 

According to a CSpOC TIP message from July 18th 2020, this rocket stage reentered on 18 July 2020 07:02 UT (+/- 1 minute: this time accuracy indicates a SBIRS or DSP infra-red detection of the reentry) near 26.8 N, 101.2 W, over Northeast Mexico near the border with Texas. The map below depicts the final trajectory of the rocket stage and the CSpOC reentry position:

 

Click map to enlarge

This case highlights again that footage appearing on Twitter or other social media after an event  is not always what it purports to be, and one should always check whether it shows what it purports to show.

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