A mysterious fireball?was seen streaking across the sky last night in Utah, Nevada and parts of California that sent social media into a frenzy.
Everyone took to Twitter, posting their respective video shots of the balls of light, which they assumed to be a meteor shower. The mysterious fireball light show lasted for 30 minutes, until finally exploding into several pieces.
Earlier speculated to be a meteor shower, astronomer Phil Plait tweeted in reply that the ?fireballs? were moving too slowly. Meteors usually travel so fast that they look like shooting stars.
On the other hand, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics astronomer, Jonathan Mc Dowell, PhD, discovered the bright lights? true identity. They are actually ?space junk? from the first Chang Zheng 7 Chinese rocket, as it reentered the atmosphere.
“[The rocket] was abandoned in low orbit around the Earth, circling the planet every 90 minutes,” McDowell explained via email. “A month’s worth of friction with the upper atmosphere lowered its orbit gradually, and this morning it got low enough to melt and disintegrate, creating the bright, visible chain of fiery chunks people saw.”
Later on, space communities JSpOC (Joint Space Operations Center) and Space Track.org confirmed the same.
A real meteor shower is on tonight, though. The Delta Aquariids peaks on the night of July 28-29. According to a report by Brian Resnick, when earth passes through the trail of debris left behind by a comet, bits of that debris catch fire and streak across the sky in a blazing 3,000-degree flash. They are best viewed after midnight, in a dark sky.
The website says though that the shower may not be as spectacular as the late-summer Perseid, but still, it would be worthwhile to stay up late tonight and gaze up at the sky. The moon will be a waning crescent during the shower though, ensuring dark enough skies, most suitable for meteor shower viewing.
The last meteor shower occurred in early May when the Eta Aquariids sprinkled a few meteors across the sky. The beautiful natural light show coincided with Mexico?s Cinco de Mayo festival.