Mysterious streaks of light seen over Hawaii skies - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Mysterious streaks of light seen over Hawaii skies

Image courtesy: Nuran Dada Image courtesy: Nuran Dada
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Many residents across the state observed unusual streaks of light or a “fireball” over Hawaiian skies late Sunday night, raising questions about what it could possibly be.

People from Kona to Oahu's North Shore thought it was a meteor or government experiment.  Turns out, it was just junk.  Space junk.  

An abandoned Russian spy satellite -- the Cosmos 1315 -- which launched in 1981 fell to earth, burning up as it did.

"When it starts to re-enter the atmosphere its going about 18,000 miles an hour," says University of Hawaii astronomer Richard Wainscoat, "A lot of it is going to get vaporized but if there are really big pieces then some of them may make it down to the earth's surface."

Wainscoat actually missed the spectacular event.

"I'm pretty annoyed that I was asleep when this happened."

The sighting also created a lot of buzz on the Hawaii News Now Facebook page with dozens of users posting videos and photos of the curious event.

Experts with the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas say they get a lot of calls and emails when this happens, "A large piece of debris will typically reenter the atmosphere on the order of about once a week on the average," says Astronomer Eugene Stansbery, "That's spread over the entire globe."

Stansbery also says many of the events happen during the day time hours and therefore, no one notices.

Both experts say the Cosmos 1315 probably didn't make it through the reentry process but if some larger pieces did, those would have likely fallen into the ocean.

If you missed it and want to find out where and when more space junk is expected to fall into our atmosphere, click the link below: 

http://www.aerospace.org/cords/reentry-predictions/upcoming-reentries-2-2/1981-103a/

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