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Fireballs spotted over western US as Chinese rocket burns up

Fireballs spotted over western US as Chinese rocket burns up

This Monday, Feb. 23, 2015, ten second time exposure photo provided by Neil Zeller, shows a streak of light from what is believed to be a Chinese rocket burning up upon re-entry, in the atmosphere as seen from Calgary, Canada.
This Monday, Feb. 23, 2015, ten second time exposure photo provided by Neil Zeller, shows a streak of light from what is believed to be a Chinese rocket burning up upon re-entry, in the atmosphere as seen from Calgary, Canada.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — People across a wide swath of the West, from Arizona to Canada, looked up at the sky late Monday to see a cluster of weird lights followed by an orange tail streaking across the night.

The lights were not a meteor, but a Chinese rocket booster that broke apart, said Maj. Martin O'Donnell, a spokesman for U.S. Strategic Command.

There were no reports of damage or injuries, O'Donnell said, pointing to statistics showing there is a 1 in a trillion chance of being hit by space debris.

Canadian photographer Neil Zeller was on his way home from shooting the Northern Lights when he saw the cluster of fireballs in a rural area outside of Calgary about 11 p.m. MST.

"I'd never seen anything like it," he said. He captured several shots of an orange streak slashed above dark trees.

More than 150 people reported seeing the group of about three dozen fireballs, said Mike Hankey with the American Meteor Society.

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March 12, 2015


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