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A dazzling light show lit up the Northern California sky on Friday night, leaving viewers mesmerized and confused about what it could be.

People took to social media, sending videos and pictures to news channels, asking if it was a meteor shower or satellites.

However, astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who works at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, confirmed that it was “essentially space junk coming back to Earth.” McDowell said the flaming chunks breaking up in the sky were pieces of a Japanese Communications package that was jettisoned from the International Space Station in 2020 after becoming obsolete.

The debris spent three years in orbit before re-entering the atmosphere over Northern California, giving those on the ground an unforgettable display.

McDowell said that although the debris was traveling at 17,000 miles per hour when it hit the atmosphere, it would have slowed down dramatically before hitting the Earth.

He added that the debris would have probably melted entirely, but a few bits could have reached the ground, possibly in the Yosemite area.

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