On July 11, 1979, the abandoned US space station Skylab returned spectacularly to Earth, burned in the atmosphere, and debris spread across the Indian Ocean and Western Australia.
The last group of astronauts left the space station in 1974. Over time, it began to deviate from orbit, gradually approaching Earth. In fact, Skylab returned to Earth earlier than NASA expected. This premature fall was attributed to a strong solar storm, because solar activity warmed the Earth’s atmosphere.
When debris from the Skylab flew into the atmosphere, residents and pilots in the area saw dozens of colorful flares resembling fireworks.
Skylab’s grave: the remains of Australia’s first US space station
Skylab: the first US space station (photo)
Skylab: How NASA’s first space station worked (infographic)
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Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her at @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom and Facebook.
Hanneke Weitering
SPACE.COM Editor: Hanneke joined the Space.com team in August 2016 as a writer and producer. Previously, he has written for Scholastic, MedPage Today, and Oak Ridge National Lab. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in his hometown of Knoxville, he received a graduate degree in Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. He currently lives in Seattle, where the Space Needle is located.

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