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Spectacular fireball over California: Chinese Spacecraft junk lights up the sky


NEW DELHI: In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Southern California became the backdrop for an unexpected celestial event as a large piece of Chinese space debris re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, captivating observers with a brilliant fireball. Stretching from Sacramento to San Diego, the spectacle was reported by 81 individuals to the American Meteor Society (AMS), marking a notable moment in recent astronomical observations.
According to a Space.com report, the source of this luminous phenomenon was identified as the orbital module of China’s Shenzhou 15 spacecraft by astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.Launched in November 2022, this mission had contributed to the operations of China’s Tiangong space station, highlighting the continuous advancements in the nation’s space endeavors. Weighing approximately 3,300 pounds (1,500 kilograms), the Shenzhou 15 orbital module, unlike its reentry counterpart designed for safe Earth return, was not meant to make a controlled descent, leading to its fiery demise over the Pacific coast.
This incident stirred curiosity and speculation among onlookers, with some initially attributing the bright streak to SpaceX hardware due to a Falcon 9 rocket launch that had occurred several hours prior. However, clarifications soon confirmed the true origin of the fireball, distinguishing it from the routine landings and reuses of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 first stages, the Space.com report said.
The re-entry of the Shenzhou 15 orbital module into Earth’s atmosphere adds to a series of uncontrolled descents by significant pieces of Chinese space debris, including the 23-ton core stage of the Long March 5B rocket. Such occurrences have sparked debate within the global space community, drawing criticism from leaders at Nasa and the European Space Agency for the potential hazards they pose.
This event serves as a vivid reminder of the challenges and responsibilities associated with space exploration and the management of space debris, underscoring the need for international cooperation in ensuring the long-term sustainability of outer space activities.

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