Was it a meteor? A broken satellite? Maybe a UFO? Leave it to an astronomer to determine what caused the light show visible over much of the Pacific Northwest tonight at around 9 p.m. PT.
Jonathan McDowell, an expert satellite tracker at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, soon learned that the meteoric display was actually the disintegration of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stage left over from a launch that took place more than three weeks ago.
“The Falcon 9’s second stage of Starlink’s March 4 launch failed to cause a deorbit combustion and is now returning to orbit after 22 days” McDowell tweeted.
Fittingly, the return of a rocket stage from a Starlink satellite launch provided a moment of wonder from Seattle to Portland and beyond. After all, those satellites are manufactured at SpaceX’s facility in Redmond, Wash., And it’s conceivable that members of the Starlink team have witnessed the show.
Not long after the orbital debris burned up – innocent in all appearances – the internet burned with photos and videos of the fireworks show. Here’s a selection of images from Twitter and from friends from GeekWire:
– Cedric Padilla (@CedSaidZed) March 26, 2021
– Fred Lu (@ fredlu_1618) March 26, 2021
who had Seattle of all places to reenact Cloverfield on their 2021 bingo card pic.twitter.com/7XLro3q3qq
– keith reynolds (@subtleBreaker) March 26, 2021
– Ches Allen (@ChesAllenPDX) March 26, 2021
– Krissy (allkaallori) March 26, 2021
– Adam Liechty (@AdamLiechty) March 26, 2021
Reddit user u / ArcMaster posted this incredible meteor / space junk video tonight, visible across much of Oregon and Washington. The shock wave at the final disintegration was felt indoors. pic.twitter.com/qoxMWYy61G
– ㄥ 卂 ᐯ 卂 ㄒ ㄩ 乃 乇 Ꮆ ㄖ 乃 ㄥ 丨 multiple (@NullAdagio) March 26, 2021
Widespread reports of one #meteor or #space junk re-entering the atmosphere in the Pacific Northwest (#WA #OR #Seattle), so check GOES-West and there * is * an interesting cloud that has appeared recently. (top left of this image) pic.twitter.com/JbSl9BoOgu
– AI6YR (@ ai6yrham) March 26, 2021
Thread: Northwest meteor / meteorite observation: Washington State / Oregon etc https://t.co/snOk1M4DkZ
– Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) March 26, 2021
“Elon, what’s going on,” says the confused spectator.
Little did he know, this was actually the second phase of one of them @Elon Musk‘s missiles. Https://t.co/UbCfVbaMd6
– Michael Baylor (@nextspaceflight) March 26, 2021