SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — An object of unknown origin that came barreling down from the skies over Northern California on Friday night was actually an older space object, the Chabot Space and Science Center confirmed to KRON4.
The object entered Earth’s atmosphere around 9:36 p.m., and it fell towards the earth after many years in a “slowly decaying orbit,” according to a spokesperson with the Chabot Space and Science Center.
Jonathan McDowell from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics tells KRON4 the space object is Japanese, and it was initially launched up to the International Space Station in 2009. The object later separated from the ISS in 2020, McDowell tells KRON4. The object is 310 kg and was being tracked by the U.S. Space Force, he says. The Space Force confirmed that the reentry took place around 9:28 p.m., and the object was heading southeast across Northern California, according to McDowell.
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McDowell also clarified why the object appeared to be on fire, “What you are seeing in the videos is that the object has begun to burn up and has broken into several pieces. These pieces will mostly have disintegrated and burned up completely, but a few small parts might have reached the ground,” he said.
Viewers from across the Bay Area shared photos and videos of the object streaming across the night sky. The object was visible in California, Oregon and Nevada, according to the spokesperson with the Chabot Space and Science Center.