Falling SpaceX debris puts on a light show in the sky

If you live in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, you may have seen a strange meteor streaking across the sky Thursday night (March 25). But that was no chunk of asteroid or comet — it was likely SpaceX debris falling and burning up in Earth’s atmosphere, experts say. 

On March 4, SpaceX launched a batch of 60 Starlink internet satellites to orbit aboard a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket. Experts think the re-entering upper stage of that rocket is what caused last night’s sky show, which speckled the sky with bright glowing dots that moved across the sky. Local reports pegged the event at just after midnight EDT (0400 GMT) on Friday (March 26), or about 9 p.m. local time Thursday on the U.S. West Coast. 

“While we await further confirmation on the details, here’s the unofficial information we have so far. The widely reported bright objects in the sky were the debris from a Falcon 9 rocket 2nd stage that did not successfully have a deorbit burn,” the National Weather Service (NWS) Seattle tweeted. They added in a follow up tweet that “there are NO expected impacts on the ground in our region at this time.”

Related: SpaceX’s Starlink satellite megaconstellation launches in photos

SpaceX’s Starlink 17 mission lifts off on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on March 4, 2021. Debris from the launch fell back to Earth on March 25. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Some people on social media have excitedly shared videos and photos of the event, referring to the falling debris as a possible meteor shower, “shooting star” or comet. Some have even cited extraterrestrial activity as the cause, though no experts have validated that possibility.

I’ve NEVER seen a meteor shower like this! Freaky when you don’t know what it is 😲😬 @fox12oregon