A Mystery Fireball Streaked Across the Southwest Last Night—Here’s What it Actually Was
The explanation is interesting.
Engadget confirmed that the light show was disintegrating space junk according to Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell of the U.S. Strategic Command, who indicated it was “the burning body of an SL-4 rocket reentering the atmosphere.”
The rocket launched Monday, and the USSC’s Joint Space Operations Center apparently expected it might come back to Earth in pieces.
It would be unreasonable to think Lt. Col. O’Donnell was covering up some kind of Close Encounters of the Third Kind situation, even though the event made even “Bad Astronomer” Phil Plait nervous:
LOTS of reports of fireball over SW US. Clearly space debris re-entering; I’m looking for more info. Video: pic.twitter.com/0hnxswRIUs
— Phil Plait (@BadAstronomer) December 23, 2015
The question no one’s answered yet is this: Should we be worried that any kind of Russian rocket is burning through the night over a densely-populated part of the U.S.? It doesn’t seem like the military is too concerned. Then again, who knows what they’re up to down there around Area 51.