Here’s What A Spacecraft Looks Like Burning Up (Plus Correction of Past Article)

Flame and fireworks. That’s what the Automated Transfer Vehicle Albert Einstein appeared to astronauts to be like as it made a planned dive into Earth’s atmosphere Nov. 2. The European Space Agency ship spent five months in space, boosting the International Space Station’s altitude several times and bringing a record haul of stuff for the astronauts on board the station to use.

According to the European Space Agency, this is the first view of an ATV re-entry that astronauts have seen since Jules Verne, the first, was burned up in 2008. Controllers moved the spacecraft into view of the Expedition 37 crew to analyze the physics of breakup.

Also, yesterday you may have seen an article concerning a picture a photographer snapped of the ATV burning up on Earth. After publishing it, we then realized we were in error with that information. But it turns out the photographer actually DID capture the ATV-4 ina subsequent image. We’ve now updated the article a second time. Senior Editor Nancy Atkinson writes:

Here’s a story that we’ve updated a couple of times, and now it ultimately has a happy ending. We originally posted a picture from Oliver Broadie who thought he captured an image of the ATV-4 Albert Einstein right before it burned up in the atmosphere. That image, see below, was ultimately determined to be of the International Space Station and not the ATV-4, so yesterday we pulled the image and explained why. But now, thanks to a great discussion between the photographer and satellite tracker Marco Langbroek (see it in the comment section), they have determined that Oliver actually did capture the ATV-4 in a subsequent image taken about 4 minutes later. Thanks to both Ollie and Marco for analyzing the timing and images. Also, we were in error for saying that the image showed the ATV-4 burning up in the atmosphere. That was my mistake (Nancy).

More orbital pictures of the ATV burning up are available in this ESA Flickr set.

Automated Transfer Vehicle Albert Einstein burning up in the atmosphere at 12:04 GMT on Nov. 2, 2013. Picture snapped from the International Space Station. Credit: ESA/NASA
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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