Kyiv’s residents are no strangers to exploding objects in the skies and streets of their city but a bright flash that lit up the heavens on Thursday night was something altogether different.

Just look at it…

Woah. What is that?

That is the million-dollar question.

Although it's now believed to have most likely been a meteorite, the immedaite suspect was of course Russia. For more than a year now, Kyiv has regularly been the target of Russian missile attacks and the air raid sirens that sounded shortly after the flash appeared to confirm this.

Even so, the intensity, colour and pattern of the flash – and the fact there was no explosion heard – was like nothing seen previously in Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion. Here it is from another angle…

What did the authorities say?

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Initially, the Ukrainian President’s office said the flash was the work of air defenses prompting speculation that it was the new American-made Patriot systems in action for the first time, the delivery of which was confirmed earlier in the day.

But this explanation was swiftly retracted and Kyivians were told to await further information from the air force, leaving an information void that was inevitably filled with speculation and many, many memes.

And what was the subject of these memes?

Aliens of course.

OK that’s all very funny but what actually happened?

Around 90 minutes after the mystery event, Kyiv authorities released a statement saying that according to preliminary information, the “phenomenon was the result of a NASA space satellite falling to Earth.”

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Is that actually a thing?

Absolutely, it happens fairly regularly and NASA had actually previously announced that one of its satellites was due to fall to Earth this week.

The US space agency had saidthat the retired 660-pound (300-kilogram) Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager spacecraft (RHESSI) would reenter the atmosphere on Wednesday.

Great, case closed then.

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Not so fast – NASA later issued a statement saying the satellite it had been talking about was still in space.

“… that reentry has not yet occurred -– RHESSI is still in orbit,” a NASA spokesman told AFP. “NASA and the Department of Defense continue to track RHESSI. No other NASA satellite reentered the atmosphere earlier today.”

This is getting ridiculous. What on earth (or above) was it?

At this stage, even Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, was getting in on the meme action and doing nothing to quell the rumours of imminent alien invasion.

At the time of writing, we still do not have a definitive answer but the best bet seems to be on a meteorite, specifically a bolide meteorite.

"We cannot identify what it was exactly, but our assumption is that it was a meteorite," Igor Korniyenko, the deputy head of a control centre at Ukraine's national space agency said on Thursday morning.

But he said there was not sufficient data to determine "the exact nature" of what might have caused the flash. "Our observation devices showed it was a powerful explosion. We recorded it and determined where it took place," he said.

The light is caused by the ionized atmosphere, heated up by the meteor’s impact. There was a similar one over Israel last weekend which lit up the sky even during day-time across much of the country.

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The Ukrainian Air Force tentatively backed up this theory, later saying the flash was "related to the fall of a satellite/meteorite."

On Thursday morning Kyiv authorities definitively ruled out a missile or air defenses and acknowledged NASA's denial that it was a satellite, adding: "What exactly it was is for experts to find out."

In a rare respite from news about the war, various Tweets and posts along with Ukraine’s lawmakers, bantered about the meteor that had flashed across their capital’s sky, the night before.

Mariana Bezluha: “I’m going to draft a law to ban the publication of videos of the meteor!”

Volodya Tsabel (in reply): “If you do, I’m going to block that legislation!”

Danylo Hetmantsev: “How did the meteor enter our taxation zone without paying its VAT?”

Georgi Mazurashu: “We need to permit meteors to exit Ukraine!”

Anastasia Radina: “If a politician finds the meteor, they better be sure to declare it!

Misha Fedorov: “I call for the swift registration of the meteor in the DIIA app.”

Oleksander Kornienko: “Maybe there was a meteor, maybe there wasn’t. It needs to be debated.”

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