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:
– Cedric Padilla (@CedSaidZed) March 26, 2021
– Fred Lu (@ fredlu_1618) March 26, 2021
he had Seattle of all places to recreate Cloverfield on his 2021 bingo card pic.twitter.com/7XLro3q3qq
– keith reynolds (@subtleBreaker) March 26, 2021
– Ches Allen (@ChesAllenPDX) March 26, 2021
– Krissy (@kaallori) March 26, 2021
– Adam Liechty (@AdamLiechty) March 26, 2021
Reddit user u / ArcMaster posted this amazing meteor / spacejunk video tonight, visible across much of Oregon and Washington. The shock wave of the final break was felt inside. pic.twitter.com/qoxMWYy61G
– ㄥ 卂 ᐯ 卂 ㄒ ㄩ 乃 乇 Ꮆ ㄖ 乃 ㄥ 丨 几 (@NullAdagio) March 26, 2021
Widespread reports from a #meteorite or #space trash re-entering the atmosphere in the Pacific Northwest (#WASHINGTON #OR #Seattle), so I checked GOES-West and there is * there * an interesting cloud that appeared recently. (top left of this image) pic.twitter.com/JbSl9BoOgu
– AI6YR (@ ai6yrham) March 26, 2021
Topic: Northwest meteor / meteor sighting: Washington State / Oregon, etc. https://t.co/snOk1M4DkZ
– Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) March 26, 2021
“Elon what’s going on,” says the confused observer.
Little did he know, this was actually the second stage of one of @Elon Muskrockets. ???? https://t.co/UbCfVbaMd6
– Michael Baylor (@nextspaceflight) March 26, 2021