Space junk seen breaking up over California, other western states

PUBLISHED Thu, July 28, 2016 - 12:55am EDT

Debris from the Chinese carrier rocket Long March 7 (also known as Chang Zheng 7) has broken up over the western part of the United States, causing reports from witnesses of a meteor, comet or a "ball of fire" over California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Arizona, and other states. (more)

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The incident happened at about 9:30 p.m. PT on Wednesday when a white streak of light with a flaming tail was seen breaking up in the sky, and the object then appeared to break up into smaller parts as it passed.

Although there was no official word on whether it was a meteor or space junk, astronomers agreed that a meteor was unlikely because the object was slow moving. Some witnesses also feared that a plane had crashed, but authorities confirmed that no planes were missing.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said the objects appeared to be from the second stage of the Long March 7 rocket. The rocket was launched on June 25 and debris had been expected to re-enter on early Thursday morning.

"The rocket stage reentering over the western US tonight was from the first launch of the CZ-7, one of China's new generation of rockets," McDowell said. "The CZ-2/CZ-3/CZ-4 series used by China since early 1970s is being retired. New CZ-5/6/7 rockets now being introduced."

There was no immediate comment from NASA about the event, which was the biggest since debris from a Russian rocket caused similar scenes over Vietnam on January 1.

Scores of people reported the event on social media. We have received reports from the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, Reno, Salt Lake City and scores of other locations across states in the western region.

-- Did you see the object come down? If so, let us know where you are in the comments below! If you have footage you'd like to share with use, please send it to --

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