Mysterious streaks of light seen in the sky over California

Mysterious streaks of light were spotted in the skies over the Sacramento area Friday night, prompting a shocking St. Patrick’s Day video to be posted on social media.

Jaime Hernandez was at King Kong Brewing Company in Sacramento for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration when some of the crew noticed the lights. Hernandez soon began filming. It was over in about 40 seconds, he said Saturday.

“Mainly, we were in shock, but we were surprised to see it,” Hernandez said in an email. “None of us have ever seen anything like it.”

Bar owner posted a video of Hernandez on InstagramHe asks if anyone can solve the mystery.

Jonathan McDowell says he can. McDowell is an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. In an interview with The Associated Press, McDowell said he was 99.9% confident the streaks were from burning space debris.

McDowell said the Japanese communications package that sent information from the International Space Station to the communications satellite became obsolete when the satellite was retired in 2017. The 310-kilogram (683-pound) piece of equipment was removed from the space station in 2020 because it took up valuable space and would burn up completely upon re-entry, McDowell added.

The burning pieces of the wreckage “created a spectacular light show in the sky,” McDowell said. He estimated the debris would be about 40 miles high and traveling thousands of miles per hour.

The U.S. Space Force confirmed California’s re-entry path for the inter-orbit communication system, and it coincided with the time people saw it in the sky, he said. The Space Force could not immediately be reached with questions on Saturday.

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McDermott reported from Providence, Rhode Island.

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