Debris from a rocket provided quite a light show over Western Washington on Thursday night, including the Twin Harbors. The fiery ball burst into multiple streaks of orange and red with white explosions at times, prompting social media speculation that ranged from failed extraterrestrial visitation to a meteor.
The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver reported that a SpaceX rocket booster falling out of orbit created the spectacular display. A second stage from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket had failed to make its deorbit burn earlier this month and burned up in the atmosphere at about 9 p.m., according to reports.
“The widely reported bright objects in the sky were the debris from a Falcon 9 rocket 2nd stage that did not successfully have a deorbit burn,” the National Weather Service in Seattle wrote on Twitter.
Administrators later added that these types of displays are not uncommon. Man made objects reentering the Earth’s atmosphere obtain low Earth orbit at speeds around 17,500 mph, If their angle of approach is too steep they burn up.
The spectacle was visible as far north as Seattle and as far west as Cannon Beach in Oregon, according to posts on social media.
There was no comment on the spectacle from SpaceX on its Twitter feed.
Hoquiam Mayor Ben Winkelman joked of UFOs coming to visit his locally-owned clothing business, posting a video, which he said has been viewed more than 50,000 times on Facebook.
Winkelman said he had just left the Econolodge, and was lucky to catch the video. He joked with his father and business partner that extra terrestrials “were coming to investigate the best performance base layers in the Universe made right here in Hoquiam,” referring to their business, Grays Harbor Unders.
The Grays Harbor County Emergency Management received multiple reports of bright streaks across the sky.
Reader Janice Bennett asked if it was a meteor shower. They said they were near the former middle Swanson’s building when they thought a helicopter was shining a spotlight on them.
“I told everyone to look and then it burst into a shower of sparkling sparks with glittering tails moving in slow motion in a northeast direction although the spotlight was shining in a northeast direction when it burst open it headed northeast and the tails got longer and longer as it slowly streaked across the sky all glittery and then they started burning out.” said Bennett.
Many people said that no photos or videos were able to capture the size, which seemed huge to most observers.
Winkelman had been watching a long stream of comments on his video, he said Friday morning, “Some people are disappointed that the explanation was something that made sense. I was happy to have been looking up and was quick enough to grab my cell video.”