Garbage thrown out of the ISS “lit up” the sky over the USA in three years: Video

The evening sky over Northern California lit up with a light show. On March 17, residents of Sacramento witnessed how an unknown object penetrated the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed and burned up, disintegrating into fiery pieces. Of course, the amazing celestial exposition caused equal surprise, bewilderment and conspiratorial brainstorming. Was it a meteor bombardment, a rocket crash, or a UFO crash?

Unfortunately, for those who have a stormy imagination, this spectacle was not another conspiracy episode like The X-Files. In fact, eyewitnesses saw space debris entering the atmosphere, which caught fire in the upper layers. This event once again proves a sad and dangerous fact: how much our low Earth orbit is clogged.

Piece of garbage weighing 300 kg

According to Jonathan McDowell, a well-known astrophysicist from the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the burning debris witnessed by US residents comes from the International Space Station – it was a discarded piece of inactive communication equipment back in 2020. The communication package called ICS-EF had to be removed using the Canadarm2 robot arm due to its bulky mass of more than 300 kg, after which it orbited the Earth as space debris for three years and entered the denser layers of the atmosphere over California.

“Probably, ICS-EF almost completely burned up at atmospheric re-entry. But because of the large mass, small debris could have survived, which could have fallen in the Yosemite area,” McDowell commented in an interview with The New York Times.

In fact, the combustion of space debris in the atmosphere is a fairly regular phenomenon, McDowell says. Most of these cases go unnoticed, because garbage and non-functioning spacecraft are trying to send to remote and sparsely populated regions of the Earth, for example, Point Nemo. But sometimes the movement of small objects is difficult to predict, so they can fall in the regions where people live, which creates a danger.

Earlier we reported on how the risk of death from falling space debris was calculated.

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