The flash across the sky at 7.25am caused a sensation in the Russian Far East on Sunday, with social sites exploding with theories over the dramatic flashes from the fireball. Witnesses in Vladivostok claimed it was a meteor of the kind that earlier this year struck the Urals.
Some observers said the object streaking across the sky 'looked like a plane' and others called it a UFO buzzing the flood-ridden Far East of Russia.
By later in the day, scientists had a more prosaic explanation. Vladimir Surdin, a fellow of Moscow State University's Shtenberg Institute of Astronomy, said: 'Judging by the pictures, it was an artificial object. It was moving west to east and was observed some 20 minutes after Zenit rocket was launched from Baikonur cosmodrome.'
He told RIA Novosti: 'A meteorite body usually explodes all at once, while here we see a gradual break up as happened during the MIR space station or the Columbia shuttle fall.'
The Zenit rocket was lifting an Israeli communications satellite into orbit. The 4.3-tonne AMOS-4 will provide broadcast and communication services to Europe, the Middle East, the United States east coast, Africa, Russia, and southeast Asia.
It is believed that the second booster of the Zenit rocket caused the fire show over the Pacific on early Sunday.
In February, a meteorite in Chelyabinsk, in Russia's Urals region, caused a massive sonic boom that blew out windows and damaged thousands of buildings around the city, injuring 1,500 people in the area.
Some of the locals in Vladivostok wondered if it was a sign that the relentless flooding hitting the Far East would soon end.