NASA says the flaming objects which came close to hitting an airliner heading to New Zealand could be meteors, and not Russian space junk.

The objects fell ahead of and behind a Chilean airliner flying over the Pacific between Santiago and Auckland on Tuesday night.

A chief NASA scientist checked with the Russians, who say they fired rockets on their space junk after the airline reported the near-miss.

The New Zealand Space Flight Association's Matthew Pavletich also thinks the objects are not from the empty Russian Progress supply ship.