SpaceX debris’ fiery reentry over Arizona and Colorado

SpaceX debris: Three images of groups of small white blobs with streaks in a dark sky.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Jeremy Likness in Colorado Springs, Colorado, captured these images around 2:53 a.m. MDT [8:53 UTC] on April 27, 2023. Jeremy wrote: “It was pure luck I looked over my shoulder and noticed something strange. I grabbed my phone and filmed this for 40 seconds. It was followed by a series of booms.” Thank you, Jeremy! Jeremy and many others witnessed SpaceX debris falling back to Earth over Arizona and Colorado last night.

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SpaceX debris makes fiery reentry

Overnight, on April 27, 2023, people in Arizona and Colorado witnessed a fiery display in the night sky. An object broke up into a stream of bright pieces followed by loud noises. The display was due to debris from SpaceX burning up on reentry. Jonathan McDowell of the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard and Smithsonian explained the situation on Twitter:

The Crew-5 Dragon capsule launched to space in October 2022, carrying four astronauts to the International Space Station. After 157 days in space, the crew returned to Earth on March 11, 2023, aboard the Dragon capsule. According to McDowell, the crew jettisoned a trunk during their trip back to Earth. That piece of space debris, which received the label 55840, drifted back toward Earth until last night when it finally made its uncontrolled reentry.

According to McDowell’s map, the space debris passed over Phoenix, the Navajo Nation near the Four Corners area, and close to Gallup, New Mexico. It then flashed through skies over Great Sand Dunes National Park, continuing toward Pueblo and Colorado Springs in Colorado. There’s no word if it left behind debris on the ground east of Denver.

Here’s Jeremy’s video from Colorado Springs:

It’s happened before

In July 2022, Australians found a large piece of space debris in their sheep pasture. This was also believed to be a trunk from Dragon, this time from Crew-1. The ABC news report on the incident at the time said:

… it was possibly the largest piece of documented debris in Australia since NASA’s Skylab space station came plummeting back to Earth above Esperance in Western Australia in 1979.

So maybe some farmer in their field this spring will find a piece of SpaceX’s Dragon as well. In fact, SpaceX even has a SpaceX Debris Hotline at 1-866-623-0234 and an email address:

Bottom line: In the early morning of April 27, 2023, SpaceX debris made an uncontrolled reentry over Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, lighting the skies and causing loud booms.

April 27, 2023

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