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An unknown object was spotted streaking through the Southern California sky early Tuesday, creating a fiery display in the pre-dawn light.

Videos posted by users on X, formerly known as Twitter, showed the flaming debris just before 5 a.m. PT. Some believed the object was a bright meteor

Bree Moore told Storyful they recorded the video above from Garden Grove. 

Multiple people spotted and reported the fireball to the American Meteor Society (AMS) website. The AMS later determined it was not a fireball but “the re-entry of a rocket or satellite.”

SCHOOL BUS-SIZED SATELLITE CRASHES INTO EARTH’S ATMOSPHERE OVER NORTH PACIFIC OCEAN

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tracks space debris and identified the object as China’s Shenzhou 15 orbital module. 

According to the Aerospace Corp., the Shenzhou module was used to launch three Chinese astronauts into space in November 2022. The space junk was expected to break up over the Pacific Ocean.

It’s common for rocket boosters and spacecraft to come crashing back to Earth. 

NASA, the European Space Agency and other international aerospace community members have guidelines to reduce dead satellites and rocket parts in low-Earth orbit by requiring post-mission disposal of natural decay or a controlled entry. 

WHY A SPACECRAFT CLAW WAS BUILT TO CLEAN UP SPACE JUNK

Low-Earth orbit is becoming increasingly crowded with active and defunct satellites, which can create more space junk if they crash into each other in orbit. NASA’s Orbital Debris Program estimates there are more than 25,000 objects larger than 10 cm (3.9 inches), with about 500,000 pieces smaller than that orbiting Earth. 

When old satellites and rockets get pulled back to Earth, most hardware breaks into tiny pieces as it hits Earth’s atmosphere.



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