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A huge fireball just burned up over Las Vegas and it probably came from China

Not a meteor.

MEGHAN BARTELS, TECH INSIDER
28 JUL 2016
 

Parts of California, Nevada, and Utah were treated to an unusual space show Wednesday night when what appeared to be a giant fireball that looked like a meteor streaked across the Las Vegas sky.

YouTube user Ray Remigio caught the shimmering, weirdly slow-moving object on video.

 

You can check it out below:

The National Weather Service ruled out any weather-related issues pretty soon after reports began coming in.

Onlookers guessed it could be a meteor, since the Delta Aquarids shower is happening now and due to peak Thursday and Friday evenings.

But the source of the fireball is way weirder.

Phil Plait, an astronomer who writes for Slate, thought something seemed off about that explanation, as he explained on Twitter:

 

And Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, soon had all the details on what was happening:

The time "0440 UTC" is the equivalent of 12:40am on the US East Coast, or 9:40pm on the West Coast. The identification was later confirmed by orbit-tracking groups.

This was the first time that China's space program launched this particular type of rocket. China is planning to use the rocket on future missions to carry astronauts to the space station they want to launch later this year.

But it turns out things that have been sent into space fall back through Earth's atmosphere and burn up pretty regularly. This was just larger than most.

And the incident wasn't even the largest example this year, according to McDowell:

In fact, there may be as many as one fireball every night somewhere on Earth. But usually just due to pure chance these things aren't seen - they happen over oceans or where there's no one around.

The Los Angeles Times reports that during the fireball sighting, the rocket piece was probably moving at about 18,000 mph (28,968 km/h) some 50 miles (80 km) above the ground.

This article was originally published by Tech Insider.

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