One eyewitness on Twitter described seeing a “luminous white object” shatter into pieces several metres off the ground.
While it was initially thought that the flying object was a weather balloon, both the Belgian and Dutch weather services said neither had launched one at the time, according to De Standaard.
On Monday, an official with the UFO hotline, established in 2007, said that the object was indeed a weather balloon, and that it had been launched days ago by a student beyond both Belgium’s and the Netherland’s borders.
“An Irish correspondent informed us in the course of this afternoon that a research balloon was being released by a student from the University College Cork on Thursday,” Frederick Delaere of the UFO hotline told the outlet.
Delaere said the student launched the balloon from an observatory in the southwest of Ireland, and that he lost GPS contact with it on Saturday, a day before the balloon was seen exploding in the sky above Ghent.