A mysterious streak that lit up the Pacific Northwest night sky Thursday is believed to be rocket debris that created a brilliant show as it burned in the earth’s atmosphere.
Dozens of people reported seeing the streaking lights after 9 p.m. Many wondered if it was a meteor shower, but it is now believed to have been a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket that failed to make its de-orbit burn and underwent an uncontrolled re-entry.
The dazzling display was seen as far as Oregon.
The Falcon 9 second stage from the Mar 4 Starlink launch failed to make a deorbit burn and is now reentering after 22 days in orbit. Its reentry was observed from the Seattle area at about 0400 UTC Mar 26. pic.twitter.com/FQrBrUoBHh
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) March 26, 2021
American astronomer Jonathan McDowell said break-ups like this one usually occur about 60 kilometres above the earth, far higher than where planes fly.
He said as the space junk had previously made passes over Texas, Wyoming and California.
The lights prompted a flood of calls to emergency responders like Saanich Police, who sent out a tongue-in-cheek tweet in response.
We are much better at investigating fires on earth. The cause of this fire in the sky is still under investigation ? Some citizens tell us it is the reentry of a second stage Falcon 9 Space X Rocket. https://t.co/U0VvAtDrel
— Saanich Fire Department (@SaanichFire) March 26, 2021
“We are much better at investigating fires on earth,” police tweeted.
The U.S. National Weather Service in Seattle said there were no expected impacts on the ground in the Pacific Northwest region.