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SpaceX rocket debris dropped spectacularly into the Pacific Northwest. Here’s the science behind the extraordinary show

Also Thursday evening, Rom was walking with his six-month-old puppy near his Portland home when he saw a fast-moving shower of fires in the sky.

“It was in our heads, those were the layers of light,” said Romain, a Portland-based KATU TV reporter. “We are standing in the middle of the street, in our heads, watching this crazy light show, in surprise. What is happening in the world? ”

Michelle Zimmermann, a principal and principal of Renton Prep Christian School in South Seattle, has a glimpse of the planes coming and going at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Hearing what could have been the explosions, he looked at the unusual scene. “A bunch of twinkling lights moving fast and horizontally from right to left of our window.”

“It looked really nice because it looked like shiny, metallic paintbrushes painted in the sky,” he said.

In the north-west of the Pacific Ocean, on Thursday evening at 9 pm, someone who had the opportunity to go outside witnessed something remarkable. For about 40 seconds a cloud of fiery objects rained down across the sky, following the parallel tails of the fire.

It was a piece of SpaceX rocket falling from Earth, but at the time it was a cosmic mystery.

“We were terrified,” Romen said. “Completely swept, overwhelmed by everything we saw.”

“Of course, being a news reporter, the first thing I do is pick up my phone,” he said. Celestial vision videos quickly spread on social media.

In ancient times, such an event would certainly have been interpreted as the birth of a very important thing – a king or an angry god.

Even in modern thought, the illusion of apocalypse or alien invasion appeared on social media on Thursday.

The more prudent inhabitants of this region understood at this point to get other explanations.

“I do not look like ‘it was an alien invasion,’ but it was something that was not man-made, it was my initial prediction … a kind of rare astrological event,” Romen said. “But I knew in my heart that it was not a comet or a shooting star, because it just lasted too long. I had no idea what it was. ”

Zim Imerman և his parents, watching the event that took place in the sky above the Sea-Tac airport, were afraid of the plane crash.

“We were afraid that something was either hitting the plane or there was a collision … because at first it looked like something had exploded,” he said. “We hoped there were no people on the plane.”

Reaume’s assumption that the phenomenon could not be artificial was wrong. And fortunately that was the case with Zim Immerman’s fear of human tragedy.

This beautiful, unusual show had a more prosaic և favorable explanation. Space debris derailed, moving at about 17,000 miles per hour as it burned in the atmosphere and landed on Earth.

Onathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Cambridge Astrophysics Center in Massachusetts, Harvard-Smithsonian, said his trajectory meant that if small pieces fell to the ground, they would fall into the mountains near the Montana-Canada border. any damage to the ground.

In other words, what exploded in our skies was the second phase of the 45-foot-long Falcon 9 rocket, which was launched by SpaceX on March 4 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Orbit the latest batch of SpaceX Starlink 60 satellites built in Redmond while safely moving the rocket.

Instead of such a rapidly controlled descent, the Falcon rocket phase was extended two days after launch. The US Space Force Catalog of our man-made orbiting planet is the 47,782th such item since the Soviet Union sent it to Sputnik in 1957.

Astronomers, including McDowell, closely monitored it for three weeks after its launch, as it gradually rotated downward, slowly pushing into the atmosphere.

After the fiery light show, “Rom” and “Zim Imerman” saw a tweet posted by McDowell 20 minutes after the event, explaining what they had seen.

“I put it back because I saw people say, ‘Oh, it’s an alien or the end of the world is coming,'” said Zim Imerman. “I wanted to redistribute science.”

Here is the science, as McDowell said in an interview on Friday.

When the rocket is launched into space, the huge first-stage rocket takes it off the ground and then falls. While NASA usually lands in the ocean, SpaceX is known to have pioneered the return of those first-stage rockets to Earth, controlling their landing with engine flares. They land ready for reuse. A remarkable feat of engineering that matches that of Seattle’s rival space rocket company, Blue Origin.

Even when the first stage falls, the smaller second stage of the space rocket ignites և the load orbits. “Once in orbit, the rocket launches the payload of its satellites or whatever it carries up.”

“This second phase of the rocket is going on ‘at least three times faster than the first phase, so it has 10 times more energy,'” McDowell said. “It simply came to our notice then. They have not resolved that one yet. “

Staying on their own devices, any metal device in orbit will gradually slow down as a result of air contact, even in a very thin atmosphere at an altitude of 300 miles. Its circular orbit will rotate inward until it collides with the atmosphere at an altitude of about 60 miles, which, when traveling at such a high speed, would cause thousands of degrees of warming.

Without a spacecraft-like heat shield, the metal melts, and the kit breaks down when it “re-enters” the atmosphere.

“In this situation, there is no denying the sound boom,” said McDowell, possibly explaining what drew Immerman to his window.

If it is a fairly large piece of space debris, he added, “you have a few tons of objects burning in the atmosphere; there is a small chance that the denser pieces will not melt completely, but will survive, then hit the ground.”

In this case, “Most of it will melt and burn up in the upper atmosphere,” McDowell said. “It was heading east in the Tacoma area. When it really hits the ground, very little metal will be scattered along the 100-mile road near the Montana / Canada border. I would say the mountains.”

He said there was no record of any casualties from the space debris, and that the likelihood was generally low.

There are currently about 20,000 man-made objects orbiting the Earth. About 4,000 satellites are working, the rest are classified as space debris, which at some point will fall in կմ will re-enter.

He recalled that in 1979, the 70-ton Skylab space station collided with Australia.

“We do not like it,” said McDowell. “But the three-ton rocket phase is not a big deal.”

Still, he said, the best way to reduce any risk is to control the entry of space debris.

This is done by launching the rocket accurately, turning its circular orbit into an ellipse, which is arched from a point 300 miles above the earth, moving about 20 miles to 40 miles above the ground.

“So when it spins around, half the orbit later, it will hit the atmosphere at a certain predictable time,” McDowell said. “It will disintegrate, it will disintegrate, it will burn, but you will do it in a certain place that you control.”

Somehow, SpaceX failed to do so this time. The company did not respond to a request for information on Friday. It did not post anything about the incident on its website on Thursday, and its CEO, Elon Musk, did not mention it on his social networks.

McDowell says SpaceX is “very firm about everything.” “They have not said anything” since its launch in early March.

However, no doubt what exactly it was. McDowell և Other astronomers predicted this. On March 9, he tweeted that the second phase of the Falcon 9 rocket would arrive in “a few weeks.”

However, since the rocket phase was just slowly spinning down, gliding at a fantastic speed over an almost horizontal atmosphere, it was not possible to accurately predict when and where it would fire.

“Two days ago we knew that this phase of the rocket would enter again, but we did not know when it would be about 12 hours. And it travels at 17,000 miles per hour, so if you do not know when in 12 hours, then you do not know where.

Upon hearing the first news from Northwest Peace on Thursday, McDowell rushed to the orbit to calculate where it was and immediately saw that it was the rocket stage he was following.

Although this explains what people saw in the sky, it does not attract them to watch it, not to realize what it is.

“I see a lot of amazing things,” said Rom, a Portland TV reporter. “The Pacific Northwest has beautiful skies and beautiful stars in eastern Oregon. I saw the eclipse. “

“But there is nothing really scary to me like what happened last night,” he said.

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