Astronomers Say Bizarre Meteor Light Show is SpaceX Space Junk

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Shortly after 9 PM PST on Thursday, a flurry of reports from Seattle appeared across social media. Citizen-journalists were capturing dramatic videos of an object slowly sparkling as it streaked across the night sky. And many suspected it might be a meteor show or even an alien ship. It was space junk!

Real-time reporting from the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog captured the reactions of witnesses who weren’t sure if the streaking light show was a meteor shower or an alien invasion.

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, may have been the first to identify the display. He said it was a wayward SpaceX rocket burning up on reentry after it “failed to make a de-orbit burn.” 

Space junk returns to earth

“So what people saw was this 3-ton rocket stage melting and breaking into lumps as it zoomed at 17,000 miles an hour. Pretty much horizontally overhead, about 30 or 40 miles up, and it just disintegrates and falls apart,” Astronomer Jonathan McDowell explained.