A flurry of mysterious debris has startled residents in China’s northeastern province of Heilongjiang, where residents are reporting seeing unidentified flying objects and some even sharing photographs on social media of the strange debris.
The Weather Channel reports that Chinese media has reported several sightings of UFOs in the skies of Qiqihar, the second-largest city in the province, and that residents have reported strange debris on their land after sightings on Friday and Saturday. The Huffington Post, translating witness accounts from Chinese websites, notes that residents reported seeing a “huge ball of fire” large enough to be confused with a meteorite and running into their homes.
Media outlets appear to have arrived at a consensus as to what the UFO debris might be: the remains of a Russian satellite that crashed over the weekend. Australia’s News network reported Wednesday that China’s National Space Administration has “confirmed the objects which crashed near Qiqihar city, in the north-eastern province of Heilongjiang, actually belong to a Russian satellite.” The rocket, that report claims, broke carrying a communications satellite and barely made it in the sky after being launched.
China’s Global Times offers a similar explanation: “A Russian Proton-M rocket carrying an Express-AM4R communications satellite crashed outside of Kazakhstan’s territory on Friday, about nine minutes after lift-off, Russia media outlet ITAR-Tass reported.” Xinhua, also a Chinese national news agency, adds that investigators have found nitrogen gas in some of the debris, “leading some to speculate that it was a nitrogen booster from an aircraft.”
Heilongjiang borders Russia and is among the northernmost provinces of China.
That explanation appears not to be universally accepted, however, as Russian media are claiming, the Global Times report notes, that the rocket “burned up in the atmosphere and could not cause any damage.” The report notes that Chinese officials are investigating the sites in which the debris landed. Xinhua also confirms that this is the Russian version of the rocket story, which adds that the rocket did in fact fail over the air in China. Chinese authorities investigating have not announced any official determinations from the investigation other than the discovery of nitrogen.
The Russian rocket crash and potential differing stories on the UFOs arrive just as Russian President Vladimir Putin conducts a diplomatic visit in Beijing. The major accomplishment of the visit so far has been a 30-year, $400 billion deal to buy Russian gas, cementing the two countries’ ties while strengthening the Russian economy against sanctions from the West over the nation’s role in Ukraine’s civil unrest.