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Latest fireball in night sky actually a Chinese rocket

Meteors captured on video as fireballs lighting up the night sky are becoming more common thanks to ubiquitous smartphones. Except this one was no space rock.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Contributing editor Eric Mack covers space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Eric Mack

Not the end of the world... Video screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

The latest fireball spotted lighting up the sky wasn't a meteor like the one that buzzed Pittsburgh recently and the one that rocked Russia a few years back. Turns out this week's light show over the western United States was an actual Chinese rocket.

Um, what? Most of the stuff I buy comes from those guys, why are they attacking Boise? Are we sure we're not getting punked by North Korea here?

As it turns out, the rocket captured by humanity's ubiquitous smartphone and dash cams breaking up 70 miles above the western US and Canada was not the quiet beginning of World War III. NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office identified the object as the reentry of a Chinese rocket body. Specifically, it was stage 3 of the CZ-4B rocket that launched the Yaogan Weixing 26 satellite in December 2014, according to spaceweather.com. The American Meteor Society received over 195 reports of fireball sightings early Tuesday morning, centered over Idaho and the central Rockies.

So far there have been no reports of debris from the rocket fireball making it to the ground and causing an international incident. Check out a compilation of sightings in the local news report below.