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Chinese Rocket Lights Up Night Sky in Western US

A YouTube screen grab of a video of the Chinese rocket re-entering the atmosphere, visible in many places in the western U.S.
Chinese Rocket Lights Up Night Sky in Western US
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This is what’s Trending Today…

People in the western United States could not believe their eyes Wednesday night when, high in the sky, a bright streak of light appeared.

Many people took photographs or made videos of the mysterious object in the sky. Within minutes, some posted their videos on social media.

The strange fireball streaks were seen in parts of Nevada, Utah and California.

Some people thought it was a meteor shower. After all, the Delta Aquarids meteor shower can be seen in many areas in the night sky this week.

But, as the U.S. Strategic Command confirmed, these bursts of light were not from small rocks traveling through outer space.

They came from a Chinese rocket re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. A spokeswoman for the Strategic Command told the Associated Press that remains of the Chinese Chang-Zheng (C-Z) 7 rocket re-entered the atmosphere at around 9:36 p.m., California time.

The CZ-7 was part of China’s new generation of rockets, experts say. The rocket was launched June 25. It was huge, weighing over 5 tons.

One Twitter user commenting about the event Wednesday night was Harvard astronomer Jonathan McDowell. He said it was rare for such large objects to re-enter the atmosphere.

But the CZ-7 is not the biggest object to re-enter in 2016, he noted. Part of a Russian rocket that came down over Vietnam in January was even larger.

Experts say the Chinese rocket does not present a danger to people on the ground.

And that’s What’s Trending Today.

Ashley Thompson adapted this report from the Associated Press, with additional reporting. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

streak - n. a long, thin mark that is a different color from its background​

meteor shower - n. a large number of rocks or metal pieces that burn and glow brightly in the sky as they falls from outer space into the Earth's atmosphere

astronomer - n. a person who studies the stars, planets, and other objects in outer space