What Was the Huge Flash of Light Over the Southeast U.S. Last Night?

Something lit up the sky over a whole swath of the lower Eastern states last night, catching eyes all the way from Florida up through West Virginia. So what are we looking at here? A meteor, perhaps, or a fireball? Nope, it’s actually something a lot stranger.


NASA finished up the analysis of this footage of the light from June 29th and concluded that the bright light—which traveled far enough and burned brightly enough to pull in reports from 12 separate states—wasn’t a natural phenomenon at all: It was trash. Space trash, to be more specific, returning back from whence it came.

So how does one tell space debris from a meteor at the ground level? Part of it was down to the speed. At under 15,000 mph the light was certainly moving, but not as fast as NASA typically sees meteors moving. But it’s also how spread out it was. Check out this map the American Meteor Society put together of just how far apart the reports of the light came in from:

Illustration for article titled What Was the Huge Flash of Light Over the Southeast U.S. Last Night?

And, of course, the origin makes a lot more sense when you consider just how much space trash we’ve got floating around up there in the first place.

Map: American Meteor Society.


So, NASA tracks thousands of pieces of space junk. And they do not know what one this big was? riiiight! Sounds to me like something black.