WHILE an unidentified flying object the "size of a full moon" spotted in the Baviaanskloof at the weekend might have triggered thoughts of bug-eyed beings dropping in for a bit of rest and relaxation, the phenomenon has been explained as a US rocket "venting fuel".
The dark and starry skies of the Baviaanskloof lit up at about 7pm on Sunday when a "strong light" was seen by guests at the Baviaans Lodge, owned and managed by Rob le Roux.
As it turned out Le Roux and his guests were not the only ones to witness the strange occurrence, as reports of similar sightings poured in from as far afield as Zimbabwe and Botswana.
"It was a very strange light, completely spherical, with the appearance of an outer ring, moving quickly without losing shape. I don't think people in the cities would have noticed it as much because of the lights in urban areas."
NewZimbabwe.com also spoke to witnesses who saw the same "moon-like" object over the Chishawasha Hills area in northern Harare. Norman Sithole told the website: "It was like a circular, bluish flare with something in the middle."
But according to retired Cape Town astronomer Greg Roberts, whose expertise is sought all over the world, the phenomenon was nothing untoward. "The launch on Sunday of the Falcon 9 rocket from the west coast of California appears to have produced a spectacular, widely observed fuel dump over eastern South Africa.
"South Africans should be proud of this rocket, the brainchild of founder and chief designer Elon Musk, of Spacex, an ex-South African. He was also the co-founder of Paypal."
Rockets often do a "rocket burn" to slow down so that they can descend from orbit and extinguish in the earth's atmosphere.