Thousands saw bright lights in the sky over the Pacific Northwest Thursday night. Across Washington and northern Oregon, a streak of slow-moving bright lights moved across the sky.
Chief Meteorologist Morgan Palmer has confirmed this “space junk” is the second stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket breaking up upon re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. The rocket stage was part of the March 4 launch of the SpaceX Starlink satellite internet system. It burned up upon re-entry after 22 days in orbit. Palmer says it appears to have entered the earth’s atmosphere later than scheduled, bringing the sighting of the fiery re-entry over the Northwest instead of over the north Pacific Ocean.
He says most of the time, rocket debris like this completely burns up as it re-enters the atmosphere, but there is a slim chance there was some debris that could make it to the ground. No reports of that have been received yet.
The relatively slow speed of breakup looks to me to probably be a satellite, rocket part, space junk, something like that breaking up on reentry. Something that was in earth orbit. Meteors would generally be moving much faster as they burn up. But we’ll see! https://t.co/jaTVB55HWS
“Meteors would generally be moving much faster as they burn up,” Palmer said.
The National Weather Service also received calls about the mysterious object at about 9 p.m.
”Upon further investigation, we’ve received unofficial information that this is debris burning up in the atmosphere from the Falcon 9 second stage launch that failed to deorbit properly,” NWS officials said.
Viewers in Aberdeen, Federal Way, Renton, Whidbey Island and Bremerton called KIRO 7 and reported seeing the debris.
NWS officials also said they have not heard any impacts across Western Washington.