- Videos of a what appear to be a meteor shower shooting over Los Angeles quickly went viral on Twitter.
- Speculations of what it could be ranged from a UFO to a heavenly sign from the late Kobe Bryant.
- According to the American Meteor Society, the flash people witnessed was actually a re-entry of man-made space debris.
On the evening of January 29, Los Angeles residents stepped outside their homes to see a flash of light streak across the night sky. Naturally, they took to Twitter to share videos of the moment and speculate what it could be, making it a trending topic on the site.
“Saw the most crazy meteor I’ve ever seen!!” one person wrote. “Residents in Southern California were treated to a meteor last night. The fireball streaked across the night sky and then broke into several pieces,” another user tweeted.
Meteor over Los Angeles, taken in the Mission Hills/San Fernando Valley area of LA. I got the last 13 seconds of at least a 20 second shooting star #meteor #LAmeteor #LosAngeles #LA #ShootingStar pic.twitter.com/DFeK3psOlE— Stan Moroncini (@StanMoroncini) January 30, 2020
Others got more creative with their assumptions. “This isn’t a #meteor this is Optimus Prime and the other Autobots finally arriving on Earth,” one person wrote. Tweets about everything from a “late January Santa Clause visit” to the end of the world to a UFO or Amazon’s latest shipping method surfaced in satirical speculation.
But an overwhelming number of people saw the presumed meteor as a spiritual sign from Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles native and basketball legend who tragically died in a helicopter accident, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gigi, on January 26.
“Kobe and Gigi stay shooting from heaven!” one user tweeted. “Kobe shooting a jump shot to let us know he’s still here,” another wrote. “Maybe it was Kobe giving Vanessa and the kids a sign that he and Gigi are okay,” someone else suggested.
As heartfelt as those assumptions are, we regret to inform you that the fireball was not a naturally occurring meteor. According to the American Meteor Society, the flash people witnessed was actually a re-entry of man-made space debris.
“The AMS received more than 60 reports so far about a fireball event that occurred over California on January 30th, 2020,” a report from the organization reads. “Based on the reports and videos we received about this event, we can confirm that it wasn’t a natural fireball but rather a space debris re-entry.” In an interview with Newsweek, Mike Hankey, a software developer and meteor observer at the AMS, called the foreign burning object “space trash.” He added, “We are not sure what the object is yet, but this information will probably come out soon.”
According to the AMS, a meteor’s official definition only refers to the flash of light emitted by a meteoroid as it enters Earth’s atmosphere. Meteoroids are small asteroids, also known as the smallest members of the solar system. The next major meteor shower, The Lyrids, is expected to occur in April.
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