11 May 2023, 10:38

Great balls of fire! 'Rocket debris' lights up Japan night

TOKYO, May 11, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - Fiery streaks of light across the night sky over southern Japan may have been caused by space debris from a rocket launched by China, Japanese officials said Thursday.

Video of the apparent fireballs lit up social media on Wednesday night, with residents and users speculating on what might have caused the unusual display.

The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ)'s Ishigaki branch in Okinawa said it observed the streaks of light at 8:33 pm Wednesday (1133 GMT), an official told AFP.

"Given the information publicly available, we think the falling objects are not fireballs from meteorites, but debris from a rocket," said a NAOJ official, who declined to be named.

"The slow speed and the way the light moved -- threads of lights moving in parallel -- looked exactly like the atmospheric entry of debris from a rocket," he said.

"It is possible that (it was) debris from a rocket that was launched by China in November," he added.

"There is information that part of the rocket was expected to re-enter the atmosphere" at around this time, he said.

The debris was likely to have fallen into the ocean and posed no danger, he added, citing predictions of the route it would have taken.

"It was beautiful, it looked like a weeping cherry blossom tree," one Twitter user wrote of the display.

"But it's good to know it wasn't something dangerous."

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