PORTLAND, Ore. (NewsNation Now) — Was it a meteor? Space junk? Aliens?
Residents across the Pacific Northwest captured an odd sighting Thursday evening: a streak of light across the night sky.
While it led many to speculate about its origins, the National Weather Service in Seattle offered up an explanation – burning debris from a rocket.
“The widely reported bright objects in the sky were debris from a Falcon 9 rocket 2nd stage that did not successfully have a deorbit burn,” the service said in a tweet about the astral occurrence that NewsNation affiliate KOIN reported was seen in Portland shortly after 9 p.m.
Forecasters explained that, “typical manmade objects obtain low Earth orbit at speeds around 17,500 mph. As they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, the angle must be just right. If it’s too steep, they burn up.”
“If the angle is too small, they risk ‘skimming’ the atmosphere like a stone on water,” the NWS said.
The service was able to determine that the object wasn’t a bolide meteor or something similar because those would move far faster on impact with our atmosphere.
“Meteors, on the contrary, can easily reach the top of atmosphere at speeds greater than 45,000 mph. In addition, the angle of impact can be very steep…which can incinerate the object quickly,” the NWS said.
There were no reports of damage or other impacts on the ground.
The rocket delivered Starlink satellites, built in Redmond, Washington, into orbit earlier this week, according to the Seattle Times.
SpaceX said Wednesday that the Falcon 9’s first stage returned to Earth and landed as planned on its ocean-going barge off the coast of Florida.
The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate KOIN contributed to this report.