Residents of Northern California were treated to a spectacular light show on Friday night, which lit up the sky with bright streaks of light.
People flooded local news channels with pictures and videos, asking about the cause of the display.
Astronomer Jonathan McDowell from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics confirmed that the streaks were caused by space junk re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
He explained that the flaming chunks were from a piece of Japanese space equipment, a Communications package, used by the International Space Station between 2009 and 2020 before it became obsolete.
The equipment was jettisoned from the ISS and spent three years in orbit before returning to Earth over Northern California.
McDowell assured the public that although the space debris was moving at 17,000 miles an hour when it entered the atmosphere, the light people saw was caused by its fast deceleration.
He added that although the debris would have melted entirely, a few bits could potentially reach the ground, perhaps in the Yosemite area.