A mysterious streak of light was seen in the Sacramento-area sky Friday night, shocking St. Patrick’s Day festivities and posting a video of the astonishing sight on social media.
Jaime Hernandez was at the King Kong Brewing Company in Sacramento for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration when some of the group noticed the lights. It was over in about 40 seconds, he said Saturday.
“Mostly, we were shocked, but also surprised to witness it. None of us had ever seen anything like it.”
Hernandez’s posted by brewery owner video to instagramasks if anyone can solve the riddle.
Jonathan McDowell says you can. McDowell is an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. In an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday, McDowell said he was 99.9% certain the streak of light was from burning space debris.
McDowell said a Japanese communications package that relayed information from the International Space Station to a communications satellite and then back to Earth became obsolete in 2017, when the satellite was retired. It occupied space and was jettisoned from the space station in 2020 because it would completely burn up on re-entry.
The burning wreckage created a “spectacular light show in the sky,” McDowell said. He estimated the debris to be about 40 miles high and thousands of miles an hour.
Raj Dixit, vice president of the Sacramento Valley Astronomical Society, told CBS Sacramento that the old Japanese communications satellite is known as ICS. He said the satellite was first launched in 2009, but it took him more than a decade to return to Earth.
According to Dixit, more than decades-old space junk is still floating around. In the meantime, let’s silence all extraterrestrial rumors.
“I think aliens are smart enough not to explode in the atmosphere,” Dixit said. “As much as we love to fantasize about UFOs and alien invasions and Armageddon asteroids, the truth is a little more mundane, but interesting,” Dixit said.
The U.S. Space Force has confirmed the inter-orbital communications system’s re-entry path over California, and the timing matches what people have seen above, he added. The Space Force was not immediately reachable on Saturday with questions.
According to NASA’s website, Pentagon sensors track about 27,000 pieces of space junk, most of which are larger than a softball.