Thousands of people saw bright lights in the sky over the Pacific Northwest on Thursday evening. Across Washington and northern Oregon, a streak of bright lights slowly moving across the sky.
Chief meteorologist Morgan Palmer has confirmed that this “space junk” is the second stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that shatters as it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere. The rocket stage was part of the March 4 launch of the SpaceX Starlink satellite internet system. It burned down on reentry after 22 days in orbit. Palmer says he appears to have entered Earth’s atmosphere later than expected, bringing the sight of the fiery reentry over the northwest instead of the northern Pacific Ocean.
He says most of the time, rocket debris like this burns completely when it re-enters the atmosphere, but there is little chance that debris can reach the ground. No report has yet been received.
“Meteors usually move a lot faster because they burn,” Palmer said.
The national weather service also received calls regarding the mysterious object around 9 p.m.
“After further investigation, we received unofficial information that this is debris burning in the atmosphere from the launch of the second stage of the Falcon 9 which failed to de-orbit properly,” said 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 had heard no impact in western Washington.