What appeared to be a fleet of invading space alien craft over Sacramento on Friday night sparked a lot of chatter about Cloverfield, but apparently they were just discarded parts from the International Space Station.
A real shock for people in Sacramento who were drunk and/or high on St. Patrick’s Day at about 9:30 pm Friday night. As shown below, revelers saw the sky of central California lit up with moving lights, which would match what you think it would look like if aliens invaded planet Earth.
But KPIX confirms that the streaks of light were space debris from the International Space Station. “US Space Forces has confirmed a re-entry path over California for an interorbital communications system” that was once part of the International Space Station, KPIX reports. (Yes, that agency still goes by the Trump-era name Space Force.)
“What you saw was the destruction of the communications module that was attached to the International Space Station,” said Gerald McKigan, an associate astronomer at the Chabot Center for Space and Science Research, in the video above. “In 2020, after they stopped using it, they disconnected it and just left it to drift in orbit. And eventually that orbit disappeared and it re-entered the atmosphere over central California.”
This is ICS-EF, a Japanese communication package for data transmission between the Kibo ISS module and the Tsukuba Mission Control Center via the Kodama data relay satellite. It was launched to the ISS on the Space Shuttle in 2009 and had a mass of 310 kg. pic.twitter.com/ygzHdmfQc0
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) March 18, 2023
SFGate guides us to the above tweetwhich shows us what the contraption looked like before it burned to pieces on re-entry, thus creating the Friday light show.
The mesmerizing spectacle of lights over Northern California on Friday was caused by the re-entry of flaming space debris into Earth’s atmosphere, experts say. Pieces of communications equipment were dropped from the International Space Station. pic.twitter.com/Zz0IkDcb8j
— New York Times (@nytimes) March 19, 2023
“We hoped that he would return to the next orbit, where he would be over the Pacific Ocean. Most of the land is covered with water,” McKeegan continued. This one came down a little earlier than expected.
But even if it wasn’t an alien invasion, is there a risk that this space debris could hit people or areas that could start huge fires? Astronomers think not.
“Probably most of it disintegrated and burned up in the atmosphere when it first encountered thin air at this altitude, and friction caused it to disintegrate and burn. And you could clearly see what was happening as they descended,” McKigan said.
Connected: Strange lights over the mission are fueling nationwide UFO rumors. Are they following our hipsters? [SFist]
Image: ArturM40330824 via twitter