Mysterious fireballs streak across southern California sky

Burning space debris streaks across the skies above California
Burning space debris streaked across the skies above California (Picture: SWNS)

Mystery streaks of ethereal golden light stunned onlookers in the early hours of Tuesday morning across California.

However, it was neither a meteor shower nor aliens, but a large piece of space junk falling back to Earth and burning up.

The dying spacecraft lit up skies across the southern part of the state, from Sacramento to San Diego, near the Mexican border.

And while those capturing the spectacle on their phones were bamboozled by what they were seeing, astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell believes it was caused by the orbital module of China’s Shenzhou 15 spacecraft.

The craft launched three astronauts to the Tiangong space station in November 2022. The reentry module is still up there, and will bring astronauts home, but the orbital module is designed to eventually fall back to Earth and burn up – which it did, in spectacular fashion.

According to the American Meteor Society (AMS), others speculated it could have been a piece of a SpaceX rocket, given the company launched 22 Starlink satellites a few hours earlier.

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However, this is less likely given that the rocket’s first stage lands safely after launch and is reused, while the second stage general reenters after a few weeks.

Whatever it was, it gave off major apocalypse vibes as fireballs raced through the night sky.

Jenna Kushi, 30, caught the scene on her phone at 1.30am in Camarillo, Ventura County, California.

Ms Kushi, an ENT specialist, said: ‘I couldn’t tell if it was some kind of rocket or shooting stars – then it just burst into a bunch of pieces. 

‘It was pretty cool.’

A map showing where people in California have spotted falling debris.
People across California reported seeing the debris (Picture: American Meteor Society)

The streaks of light in California
The streaks broke up into smaller pieces (Picture: Jenna Kushi/SWNS)

In the video, Ms Kushi jokingly says ‘It’s gonna fall on us we’re all gonna die’ as the debris appears to ascend, leaving an illuminated trail.

On X, one user, Mrs Smith asked: ‘Anyone know what this random light flying thru the #oceanside skies tonight is?’

The AMS reports, that at the time of writing, there have been 96 witness reports, with six videos and 14 photos. 

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