Expert sky watchers solve the mystery of the Pacific Northwest meteorites


A SpaceX rocket stage rupture causes a light show over Seattle. (Photo by Cedric Padilla)

Was it a meteor? A broken satellite? Maybe a UFO? Let an astronomer identify what caused the light show that was visible over a wide swath of the Pacific Northwest around 9 p.m. PT tonight.

Jonathan McDowell, an expert satellite tracker at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, quickly discovered that the meteoric display was actually the stage rupture of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, left over from a launch that took place more than three weeks ago. .

“Falcon 9’s second stage since Starlink’s launch on March 4 failed to do an orbit burn and is now re-entering after 22 days in orbit.” McDowell tweeted.

It’s fitting that the reentry of a rocket stage since a Starlink satellite launch has provided a moment of wonder from Seattle to Portland and beyond. After all, those satellites are made at SpaceX’s facility in Redmond, Washington, and it’s conceivable that members of the Starlink team caught the show.

Not long after the orbital debris burned, harmlessly to all appearances, the internet was littered with photos and videos of the fireworks show. Here is a selection of images from Twitter and GeekWire friends:

Seattle Meteor Show
Here’s a close-up of the breakup, as seen in Seattle. (Photo by Andrew Mayzak)



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