Viewers from all over the region sent us pictures and videos asking “what’s this?” ABC10 looked into it.
Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, says this was essentially space debris from a 2009 ICS-EF launch.
“These were parts of a package that was ejected from a space station about 3 years ago,” McDowell said. “It was moving at about 17,000 km/h… What you see is that it’s broken up about 40 miles up.”
The package served to transmit data between the ISS Kibo module and Mission Control Tsukuba via the Kodama data relay satellite, according to Robert Lunsford of the American Meteor Society.
This communications box has been on the radars of Space Force and astrophysicists for a while, but McDowell says no warning was issued because of the speculative nature of where it would come in.
Track tracking expected it to come in over Chico. The streaks were seen around 9:30 PM from the Bay Area up to Shingle Springs, according to our viewers.
So will it hit the ground? Maybe, but not likely, according to McDowell.
“It will probably melt completely, but a few may reach the ground in Yosemite,” he said.
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