Look up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, what is it?
Mike Hankey, operations manager with the American Meteor Society, told the Los Angeles Times the object, which appeared to break up as it entered the atmosphere, was likely space debris – but he’s not sure.
Hankey’s guess was based on how long the object was visible, the speed it was traveling and how it broke apart. “It’s more likely to be space debris than a weird, rogue, super-slow asteroid,” he told the Times. He said solid rock breaking up usually involves “a big ball that blows up.”
“Here, there was nothing like that. There’s no burst. It more just sort of falls apart, which is also very characteristic of a space object like a satellite or rocket engine or something like that.”
Stargazers from Santa Barbara to southern San Diego county captured the mystery object on video Wednesday.
Paul Lynam, an astronomer at the Lick Observatory in Northern California agreed that it was likely a tiny fragment of “space junk” that was only a few inches long.
“The typical shooting star you see is only like a grain of sand most of the time,” he told the Times. “It’s a good demonstration of the physical forces at work when you see these spectacular things.”