The Washington Post reported today (26) that a huge fireball scared residents of the Pacific Northwest, lighting up the skies from Portland to Seattle on Thursday night (25). People on the beaches of Oregon recorded the passage of the object that exploded in dozens of small points of light with their own shiny tails.
Frightened and curious, Facebook and Twitter users filled social networks with unusual images, while viewers in their homes worried about the origins of the phenomenon: was it a missile attack or a terrible plane crash? Others simply applauded as if it were a pyrotechnic spectacle.
The most plausible explanation came from astronomer Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who declared to the newspaper that the images shown were of a SpaceX Falcon 9 second stage rocket, re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. The equipment was programmed to slow down and explode without any fanfare in the South Australian sea.
— Fish News (@FishNewsChannel) March 26, 2021
The late return of Falcon 9
Jonathan McDowell explained in his Twitter account that the second stage of Falcon 9, which took 60 Starlink satellites into space on March 4, failed to make the so-called orbit burn, when the rocket turns with its tail in the direction of return for another trip of the engines. After 22 days in orbit, the equipment reentered around 1 am today (Brasília time).
Subsequently, the National Weather Service in Seattle tweeted the same information, which has not yet been confirmed, assuring residents that there was no risk of impacts in the region.
Elon Musk’s current SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets are being designed so that the first stage booster safely lands on land, but the later stages perform some maneuvers and then are decoupled and become space junk, usually burning when reentering the space. atmosphere.