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Fireball Debris Over Oregon Coast, Washington, Canada Was SpaceX Rocket

Published 03/26/21 at 3:40 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Fireball of Debris Over Oregon Coast, Washington, Canada Was Rocket

(Portland, Oregon) – A dramatic and jaw-dropping sight hit the skies above the western U.S. and Canada late Thursday night, with hordes of people in the region seeing more than 40, long seconds of various pieces of fiery debris flying overhead. These days, with cell cameras in tow, many got video and pics of this with the backdrop of utterly astounded, shocked voices. (Photo above: Andy's Auto Care Plus in Albany, Oregon)

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To say the bundle of debris looked alien would be an understatement. One pinpoint of light looked so brilliant it almost gave the set objects an asymmetrical spacecraft appearance. On top of the wild light display, the debris field made a massive sonic boom as it entered the atmosphere, causing some to think this was an earthquake and others reporting it shook their windows.

It was seen and videoed on the Oregon coast, as well as all over northern California, Idaho, Washington and even in southern Canada. In fact, as of 1 a.m. there are unconfirmed reports of some debris hitting Vancouver Island.

What was it? (Video courtesy Andy's Auto Care Plus on YouTube)

Absolute confirmation still has to come from official sources, and that may take another day. But various experts, including meteorologists from Seattle TV stations and astronomers say they're certain it was the second stage booster from a Falcon 9 rocket reentering the Earth's atmosphere. What everyone saw was the rocket breaking into many pieces and burning up together, creating those multiple streaks of light. The sonic boom came from the shockwave of the objects hitting the upper atmosphere.

This Falcon 9 rocket was part of Starlink 17, launched on March 4. Starlink is a series of satellites getting launched into orbit by Elon Musk's company SpaceX, creating a world-wide network of high speed internet access.

NASA and SpaceX have so far not commented.

What we do know:

It was not a plane crash nor a meteor or fireball (Oregon Coast Beach Connection happened to be one of the few witnesses to a fireball in the Northwest on March 20). As OMSI's Jim Todd explained to Oregon Coast Beach Connection earlier this week, only something man-made would appear for such a long time. Then there would be a boom.

The March 20 fireball did not have that – Thursday night's event fit the description of something man-made to a tee. Something created by humans would break into many pieces, all of which would be illuminated as they burned, Todd said. Meteors or fireballs would be swift, although a fireball would exhibit “pieces” in a way with the trail showing bits or segments.

Astronomers like Jonathan McDowell on Twitter pointed out the reentry of the Falcon 9 rocket just before all the flood of sightings happened.

According to McDowell, astronomers knew approximately when it was supposed to hit the atmosphere, about Thursday – at least within a five-hour window. Reports are that the Starlink 17 second stage rocket was for some reason delayed in its reentry earlier this month and was originally supposed to burn up over the Pacific Ocean. Whatever caused the delay (apparently a misfiring of the rocket and thus an altered trajectory) caused it to appear over western skies instead.

Starlink 17 Delays, Problems

An interesting side note to all this is that the Starlink 17 mission was supposed to launch in February, but for reasons often not released to the public it was delayed a few times. Starlink 17 was the first to be launched out of order: SL 18 and 19 happened before SL 17. (See the Starlink sightings Satellite Swarms Create Otherworldly Light Shows Above Oregon, Washington, Coastlines)

One reason cited for the delays, however, is that the SL19 mission saw major issues with the first stage rocket not returning to Earth properly. Normally, these land on a drone ship out in the ocean – a ship called “Of Course I Love You.” Booster B1059 was lost in the Atlantic Ocean, and SpaceX determined it was a hole in an engine boot causing excessive burn upon reentry. MORE PHOTOS BELOW

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