UFO or Chinese rocket ‘crash’? Truth may be simpler
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan, Philippines — When social media was set abuzz by reports of an explosion and a flash of light in the skies over southern Palawan on Saturday night, netizens asked: “Was it a UFO or a space rocket?”
It was neither, according to the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA), which said it was more likely caused by a meteoroid.
PhilSA issued the statement on Monday in the wake of online accounts from residents—including a local mayor—about an “unidentified flying object” that exploded and “crashed” somewhere in Bataraza or Rizal towns around 7 p.m. on Jan. 7.
“It happened only once but it was so loud that it was heard in Rio Tuba up to the town center of Bataraza, and in Sicud in Rizal,” said one resident of Bataraza. “There was also some vibration felt after the blast.”
Bataraza Mayor Abraham Ibba said he also saw the flash of light but did not hear any explosion.
“I saw something odd that I thought was a UFO near Tres Marias, here in Mantalingahan. It was so fast. Many of us saw it,” Ibba said in a text message on Monday. Tres Marias is one of the mountains in the Mantalingahan mountain range.
Ibba said among those who saw the phenomenon were disaster management officials near the pier.
“I saw something red flash; it was so quick, like a bullet,” he added.
As similar eyewitness accounts were posted on social media, speculation ensued: Was it a space rocket from China that was launched from Xichang, Sichuan province, on Dec. 29, 2022?
Can’t be Chinese rocket
But PhilSA said “the phenomenon is highly unlikely to be related to the Long March 7A and the Long March 3B rockets. The Long March 7A rocket was launched on Monday, 09 January, while the sighting and supposed explosion happened on the evening of 07 January.”
The agency also explained that unburned debris expected from the Long March 3B rocket, which was launched last December, had already fallen within the drop zone area near Palawan.
“Unburned debris, such as the payload fairing and rocket boosters, are designed to separate from the rocket and fall back to Earth minutes after a launch before the rocket enters outer space,” it added.