On Friday night, the Northern California sky lit up with streaks of light that made people wonder whether it was a meteor shower or an alien. In recent times, the United States has witnessed multiple strange occurrences in its airspace. Be it UFOs, Chinese spy balloons, or meteorites, the public has been left baffled by each of these phenomena.
Friday night’s incident prompted Americans to share videos of the moving light streaks and ask what exactly caused it as they wondered what they were witnessing.
One user, Aaron Gleason, shared a video on Twitter where streaks of light can be seen moving high up in the sky. The user, who witnessed it from Sacramento, asked:
"Meteor? Alien? China?"
A meteor shower is an astronomical phenomenon in which a number of meteors originate from one point in the night sky. These meteors are generated by meteoroids (streams of cosmic debris) entering Earth’s atmosphere at an extremely high speed on parallel trajectories.
Netizens react to the meteor-like phenomenon seen in the Northern Californian sky
Many people around Sacramento, California, stopped to capture the band of lights they witnessed moving in the sky on Friday night. They shared the videos on Twitter and speculated about what the object could be.
Some wondered if it was a UFO, while others asked if it was a comet. However, everybody seemed amused by whatever they thought they were witnessing.
One user also wondered if it was a plane crashing in the sky.
Astronomer explains the light streak seen in the Northern Californian sky is a Japanese communications package
Astronomer and astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell explained what Americans witnessed on Friday night in Northern California.
McDowell serves at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He explained on Twitter that the light streak was ICS-EF, a Japanese communications package that was being used to send data between Mission Control Tsukuba and the ISS Kibo module via the Kodama data relay satellite.
He added that the communications package had a mass of 310 kg when it was launched to the International Space Station on the Space Shuttle in 2009. McDowell further explained that the communications package was installed in one of Kibo Exposed Facility's EFU bays.
The astronomer added that the ICS-EF orbited the Earth for three years as space junk and reentered the planet over California, making it widely observable from the Sacramento region. He said that it is probable that the package was almost completely burnt up when it reentered the Earth. However, he guessed that any surviving, small debris might have reached the Yosemite area.
McDowell also described the abbreviation ICS-EF, which stands for Inter-orbit Communications System - Exposed Facility. He added that when it was in use from 2009 to 2020, the Japanese communications package relayed whatever data it collected, to an internal computer called the ICS Pressurized Module (ICS-PM).
Earlier this week, it was reported that an asteroid that was discovered on Monday was projected to pass through Earth on Friday. NASA’s asteroid database posted about a near-Earth object named 2023 EY. It was also listed as one of the next five approaching asteroids. Scientists estimated it to be about 54 feet wide.