People on different islands reported that they saw these lights in the sky on Saturday night, Oct. 24, shortly after 10 p.m. We’re told since it was traveling east.
Residents on the Big Island and Maui probably got a better view.
“I started videotaping and when they got closer, I start freaking out because I’m like, ‘Oh, what in the world is this?” said Molokai resident Kuuip Kanawaliwali.
“We actually didn’t even know what to think. We didn’t know what it was, where it came from,” said Sheri English who also lives on Molokai. “It just appeared. It was actually very eerie, eerie feeling.”
That was probably what many thought when they saw these mysterious bright lights in the night sky.
But experts from the Mauna Kea observatories offer a simple explanation of what they suspect.
“So in all likelihood, what they saw last night was the reentry of a rocket booster that was from a rocket that was launched in 2008. So a Chinese rocket that was boosting up a communication satellite for Venezuela,” said Chief Scientist John O’Meara of the W. M. Keck Observatory.
It’s likely as the years went by, the orbit of the booster eventually decayed. Astronomers found a map of the object’s flight path which was near the Hawaiian Islands. The map also provides information predicting when the rocket booster would reenter.
“So we can’t be 100% certain because we don’t have any of the pieces of the debris. But the pattern of the lights that we saw in our timelapse combined with this map,” said Canada France Hawaii Telescope Strategic Communications Director Mary Beth Laychak. “This flight path and the precision at which all of these companies are able to estimate where their objects will enter and how they’ll break up is what really leads us to believe that this was this Venesat-1 reentering the atmosphere.”
We’re told that this is not a rare occurrence because objects get launched into space all the time. But to catch a glimpse of it means you had to be in the right place at the right time–right in the flight path.
When it hits the atmosphere, prepare for a light show.
“It starts to break apart and heats up and gets really hot. And when it gets really hot, it gets really bright and falls apart,” said O’Meara.
“The entire object that’s breaking apart over our atmosphere is traveling in the exact same orbital path. So we would expect to see all of that debris follow in a straight line,” said Laychak.
To see the timelapse, from the Canada France Hawaii Telescope, click here.