A streak of light seen in at least three different states Wednesday night prompted debate and wonder among witness who sought explanations for its source, but one expert claims to know exactly what it was.
Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, told the Los Angeles Times that he believes it was debris from a rocket launched in China this week.
Sky gazers in Nevada, Utah and California spotted the massive fireball Wednesday night, and later posted their videos to social media.
"I have never seen anything like that," a person is heard saying in one of the videos.
Another individual wondered out loud if the moving lights were multiple planes, while someone else thought it was a meteor shower.
But McDowell — and the American Meteorological Society — quickly shot down both assumptions, saying that meteor showers are known to move quicker and leave less debris. It should be noted, however, that the Delta Aquarid meteor shower usually occurs around July 28 or 29.
McDowell believes the light is from a rocket launched June 25 in China. He said the space vehicle must have reentered the Earth's orbit.
“Something this big enters in an uncontrolled way probably once a month. Mostly they fall into the ocean. The Earth is a big place. The chance that you get one at night, over the U.S. at time when people look at the sky, it is relatively low," McDowell said.
The Harvard astronomer said the debris was traveling at a speed of about 18,000 mph and was probably about 50 miles into the sky.
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