Fireball from Antares rocket body witnessed in Alberta and Saskatchewan on Friday
The U.S. Strategic Command has confirmed a spectacular fireball witnessed in Saskatchewan and Alberta on Friday night was the Antares rocket body burning up as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere.
Witnesses were initially baffled by the streak of bright light, which many thought was a plane crashing or a meteor.
Some described it as looking like metal melting or like fireworks in slow motion.
Thanks @Dunlap_Obs -folks did indeed witness the reentry of @OrbitalATK's #Antares rocket booster NORAD ID 2017-071B over #Saskatchewan this AM- timing+location matches Space-Track prediction. @CBCCanada article: https://t.co/HuubCyjBve @amsmeteors page: https://t.co/rCQBcf031O pic.twitter.com/LPUdMtJGGH
— Dubious Dave (@Astroguyz) November 25, 2017
But the U.S. Strategic Command confirmed Sunday it was space junk burning up as it hurtled out of orbit and fell towards Earth.
“The 18th Space Control Squadron removed an Antares rocket body from the U.S. satellite catalog as a decayed object after it re-entered the atmosphere Nov. 24, 2017, over North America (vicinity Saskatchewan) at approximately 11:48 p.m. CDT,” said chief of current operations Maj. Brian Maguire.
Rocket makes mission possible
The Antares rocket body was launched on Nov. 12 on a resupply mission to the International Space Station.
It was used to propel the Cygnus CRS OA-8E ISS spacecraft into space and when its job was done, it fell into orbit along with thousands of pieces of space junk left over from other missions.
Because items can stay in orbit for decades, there are objects that have been circling the Earth since the 1960s.
But scientists predicted the Antares would fall back to Earth around the time that it did.