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Raumfahrt - Apparent rocket debris lights up night sky over Pacific Northwest

26.03.2021

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A streak of light in the night sky over much of the Pacific Northwest Thursday spurred plenty of speculation among earthlings. Turns out its origin was apparently very earthly: space junk re-entering the atmosphere.

As CBS Portland, Oregon affiliate KOIN-TV put it, "Was that a meteor? Space junk? Aliens? Probably not. … Whatever it was, it lit up the night sky over Oregon just after 9 p.m. … drawing gasps of wonder and many posts to social media.

"The sight was summed up by @kaallori: "Meteor? I don't know what that was, but it was spectacular.'"

CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO-TV said it first appeared to be a meteor shower.

But KIRO Chief Meteorologist Morgan Palmer said, "The relatively slow speed of breakup looks to me to probably be a satellite, rocket part, space junk, something like that breaking up on reentry. Something that was in Earth orbit. Meteors would generally be moving much faster as they burn up. But we'll see!"

Andrew Dassonville@theandrewda, captured it over St. Helens, Oregon, near Portland:

Viewers called KIRO to report what they were seeing. They also called the National Weather Service.

Then, the service's Seattle office tweeted the likely explanation, saying, "While we await further confirmation on the details, here's the unofficial information we have so far. The widely reported bright objects in the sky were the debris from a Falcon 9 rocket 2nd stage that did not successfully have a deorbit burn."

Astronomer Jonathan McDowell tweeted it was from a March 4 SpaceX launch of Starlink satellites.

Jim Todd, of the The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland told KOIN it was pretty exciting that so many people spotted it. "Everyone around the Pacific Northwest got to see it," he said.

He's not sure if any of the debris made it to the ground. "Could there be debris? Certainly. But it was burning up."

KIRO reported that weather service officials said they hadn't heard of any impacts across western Washington.

Quelle: CBS News

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Expert skywatchers quickly solve Pacific Northwest’s meteor mystery

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The breakup of a SpaceX rocket stage sparks a light show over Seattle. (Cedric Padilla Photo)

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

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

“The Falcon 9 second stage from the Mar 4 Starlink launch failed to make a deorbit burn and is now re-entering after 22 days in orbit,” McDowell tweeted.

It’s fitting that the re-entry of a rocket stage from a Starlink satellite launch provided a moment of marvelment from Seattle to Portland and beyond. After all, those satellites are manufactured at SpaceX’s facility in Redmond, Wash., and it’s conceivable that members of the Starlink team caught the show.

Not long after the orbital debris burned up — harmlessly, by all appearances — the internet was burning up with photos and videos of the fireworks show. Here’s a selection of imagery from Twitter and from GeekWire’s friends:

Seattle meteor show
Here’s a close-up of the breakup, as seen over Seattle. (Andrew Mayzak Photo)

 

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