More often than not, unusual streaks of fire in the sky are filmed in Russia. This time around, though, the fireball was courtesy of Russia itself — or, more specifically, Russian space junk that had recently reentered the atmosphere. Reports started flooding in on Twitter last night of streaking lights spotted in the nighttime sky over parts of Nevada and California. Many initially thought it was a shooting star or something similar, but U.S. defense officials have clarified the matter.
The fireball was recorded and photographed zooming through the sky last night, and as a quick trot through Twitter reveals, most people assumed it was a meteor. You can see it in action in the video below; relatively speaking, it was moving slowly and was very bright.
— Chris Cribbs (@macdaddycrabby) December 23, 2015
According to NBC News, the U.S. Strategic Command confirmed the fireball wasn’t a meteor, but instead a Russian SL-4 rocket body that had reentered Earth’s atmosphere at about 9PM EST, and was in the process of burning up.
In a statement, Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell said that the Joint Space Operation Center had been monitoring the rocket among the other thousands of space objects being tracked. Some videos show the rocket in several smaller pieces, indicating that it broke up at some point. Where any remaining debris landed isn’t clear.