A Chinese rocket re-entered the atmosphere near California late Wednesday night around the same time many people shared video on social media of a mysterious bright object streaking across the night sky.
U.S. Strategic Command spokeswoman Julie Ziegenhorn wouldn't say if the rocket ever posed danger to people on the ground. She says the command often sees re-entries.
Ziegenhorn tells The Associated Press the Chinese CZ-7 rocket re-entered the atmosphere around 11:36 p.m. Central time. That's about the same time social media lit up with reports from Nevada, Utah and California of a small fireball streaking across the sky.
Ziegenhorn referred all other questions about the rocket to Chinese authorities
Northern California was abuzz Wednesday night with reports of a mysterious light streaking across the sky.
About 9:30 p.m., Twitter was lighting up with reports coming in from as far away as Utah and Las Vegas about seeing a meteor or a strange light in the sky.
In California, people from Lake Tahoe to the Bay Area and down to San Luis Obispo were posting photos and video on social media and calling in reports of the spectacle.
One expert told the Los Angeles Times the fireball was debris from a Chinese rocket launched on June 25. After a month in low orbit, the rocket re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and was probably traveling about 18,000 mph, he told the newspaper.
Another expert saw something else.
"Anytime you have a report of a luminous object, it's a fair bet it's a natural event," Griffith Observatory's director of 45 years Ed Krupp said. "It's likely space debris or a meteor produced by interplanetary debris."
Residents can get predictions of objects re-entering Earth's atmosphere at www.space-track.org.