June 24, 2024

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Mysterious streaks of light in the night sky startle Californians

Mysterious streaks of light in the night sky startle Californians

Mysterious streaks of light were seen in the sky in the Sacramento area Friday night, shocking St. Patrick’s Day revelers who then posted videos on social media of the sudden sight.

Jaime Hernandez was at King Kong Brewing Company in Sacramento celebrating St. Patrick’s Day when some of the group noticed the lights. Hernandez quickly started filming. On Saturday he said it was over in about 40 seconds.

“We were mainly in shock, but amazed that we witnessed this,” Hernandez said in an email. “None of us have ever seen anything like this.”

Brewery owner Hernandez’s video posted to InstagramHe asks if anyone can solve the puzzle.

Jonathan McDowell says he can. McDowell is an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. McDowell said Saturday in an interview with The Associated Press that he was 99.9% confident that the streaks of light were from burning space debris.

McDowell said the Japanese communications package that transmits information from the International Space Station to a communications satellite and back to Earth became obsolete in 2017 when the satellite stopped working. McDowell added that the equipment, which weighed 683 pounds, was discarded from the space station in 2020 because it was taking up precious space and would completely burn up on return.

The flaming pieces of debris created an “amazing light show in the sky,” McDowell said. He estimated the wreckage was about 40 miles high, traveling thousands of miles per hour.

He added that the US Space Force has confirmed the re-entry path over California for the interorbital communications system, and the timing is consistent with what people saw in the sky. The Space Force could not immediately be reached on Saturday with questions.

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— By Jennifer McDermott, Associated Press