Military officials say that a bright light streaking across the sky in California, Arizona, and Nevada was debris from a Russian rocket.
— RT (@RT_com) December 23, 2015
The rocket was reentering the Earth’s atmosphere, the Las Vegas Sun reported. Before it was confirmed to be part of a rocket, there was rampant speculation over what it was.
“It’s not something people need to worry about,” David Wright, who is a space-debris expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the newspaper.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) December 23, 2015
— Mohaimen Barson (@b4rsOn) December 23, 2015
U.S. and Russian authorities declined to discuss the nature of the rocket. However, Wright and other experts said it was likely used to bring materials to a space station.
On social media, many speculated. Some were worried, some used humor, and others delved into conspiracy theories.
“I was kind of freaked out to see something like that blowing up in the air and you don’t know what it is,” Gunnar Lindstrom of Las Vegas told the newspaper.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department confirmed it saw the fireball.
We saw it too! Photographed by an LVMPD employee… an amazing meteor-like object streaks across the LV sky Tuesday evening. Apparently… it was debris from a Russian rocket: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/12/23/russian-rocket-debris-fireball/77796850/
Posted by LVMPD on Tuesday, December 22, 2015
“We saw it too!” a Facebook post reads. It added that “an LVMPD employee” got a photo of the fireball.
On Twitter, the U.S Strategic Command also issued a statement. It said the agency “removed a Russian SL-4 rocket body from the U.S. satellite catalog as a decayed object after it reentered the atmosphere yesterday over North America (vicinity Arizona).”
The SL-4 rocket body was launched by Russia on Monday.
— US Strategic Command (@US_Stratcom) December 23, 2015
According to Aerospace.org, the launch site was at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, for an International Space Station resupply.