The sight of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) rocket burning up upon re-entry over the skies of Britain baffled some onlookers on the night of September 27, 2021. 

At approximately 22:15 BST (21:15 UTC), an eerie triangular shaped light could be seen in the night sky across parts of the UK and northern Europe. 

 

However, it was not a UFO, but a rocket on an Earth science mission for NASA. ULA launched the Atlas V rocket carrying the Landsat 9 mission for NASA, from Vandenberg Space Force Base on September 27 at 11:12 am PDT (18:12 UTC). 

It was the 88th launch of the Atlas V rocket and the mission marked the first four-burn Centaur mission for ULA on an Atlas V rocket.

Once the payloads had been released into orbit the fourth burn enabled a maneuver “to dispose of the stage in a safe manner that does not contribute to space debris or cause an uncontrolled re-entry,” according to ULA’s website. 

The Landsat mission orbits around Earth, providing observations to help monitor, understand and manage Earth’s natural resources. 

The re-entry on September 27, 2021 provided some spectacular photographs for those lucky enough to glimpse it.