What Was It? Mysterious Lights Fly Over the Night Sky in Northern California

On a Friday night, many residents throughout Northern California reported seeing mysterious lights streaking across the sky. The event caused some concern and excitement, but according to one astronomer, the lights have a straightforward explanation.

According to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the lights are from an Inter-orbit Communications System Exposed Facility (ICS-EF), which is a Japanese communications package for sending data between the ISS Kibo module and Mission Control Tsukuba via the Kodama data relay satellite. This system had orbited Earth as space junk for three years and eventually reentered Earth’s atmosphere at 9:30 p.m. over California, causing the burning debris to be seen from as far north as Eureka to as far south as Sacramento.

This phenomenon is not uncommon, as many man-made objects orbit Earth, and when their orbits decay, they reenter the atmosphere and burn up. These objects can vary in size, from small satellites to larger spacecraft and debris. Some of the debris can pose a threat to existing space missions, and many organizations are working to develop strategies to manage space debris and prevent collisions with satellites and other space objects.

Despite the simple explanation for the lights seen in the sky, many people were still fascinated by the event. Social media platforms were filled with videos and photos of the event, and people were sharing their experiences and theories about what had happened.

Here are some posts from the event:

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


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