Burning rocket debris viewed in the skies over Shoreline

Friday, March 26, 2021

Photo taken from Richmond Beach by Frank Kleyn

Bright, burning objects slowly streaked across the sky on Thursday, March 25, 2021. 

Photo by Frank Kleyn

The Seattle Times reported that "Bright lights streaking across Pacific Northwest skies Thursday night were the burning debris from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket dropping back into Earth’s atmosphere, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle. The rocket was delivering Starlink satellites, built in Redmond, into orbit earlier this week."

The National Weather Service added this information on objects from space:

As a follow up to the debris observed earlier. Here's some more info on atmospheric re-entry. Typical man-made objects obtain low Earth orbit at speeds around 17,500 mph. As they re-enter the Earth's atmosphere, the angle must be just right. If it's too steep, they burn up.

If the angle is too small, they risk "skimming" the atmosphere like a stone on water. Meteors, on the contrary, can easily reach the top of atmosphere at speeds greater than 45,000 mph. In addition, the angle of impact can be very steep...which can incinerate the object quickly.


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