Debris from SpaceX rocket lights up U.S. skies

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SAN FRANCISCO | An impressive light show that lit the skies over the northwestern United States on Thursday night was most likely due to debris from a SpaceX rocket returning to the atmosphere, National Meteorology (NWS) reported.

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“The widely reported bright objects in the sky were debris from the second stage of a Falcon 9 rocket,” the Seattle National Weather Service tweeted, specifying that more detailed data would be expected to officially confirm the information.

Videos posted on social media show a thick cluster of bright dots and light trails, moving slowly across the sky before dying out, with some netizens claiming the phenomenon could be a meteor shower or even, jokingly, a alien invasion.

According to local media, the phenomenon was observed just after 9:00 p.m., and videos were posted from Washington and Oregon, both located in the northwestern United States.

According to the Seattle National Weather Service, it is more likely to have been caused by space debris than by meteorites, which would move much faster.

“What people are seeing is a rocket falling into the atmosphere at over 27,000 km / h and shattering from the heat generated by such a speed. The parts that melt more easily come off first and the denser pieces survive longer, which gives the appearance of multiple glowing pieces all going in the same direction, ”Jonathan McDowell, of the center, told AFP. Harvard astrophysics.

“This is a mistake, normally this type of SpaceX rocket performs desorbitant combustion,” McDowell added.

Desorbitation combustion is a maneuver that involves igniting the thrusters of a spacecraft to slow it down and begin its descent into the atmosphere where it disintegrates in a controlled manner.

“We knew it was going to crash yesterday or today, but we weren’t sure exactly when,” McDowell said, adding that “it takes a few hours for it to go around the world twice, and so we had no idea in advance where it would crash.

No damage has yet been reported, and the Seattle National Weather Service has said the phenomenon is unlikely to cause an impact.