Mysterious fireballs seen crossing sky over Okinawa not dangerous

Fiery streaks of light across the night sky over southern Japan may have been caused by space debris from a rocket launched by China, Japanese officials said Thursday.

Video of the apparent fireballs lit up social media on Wednesday night, with residents and users speculating on what might have caused the unusual display.

The Ishigaki branch of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) in Okinawa said it observed the streaks of light at 8:33 pm Wednesday.

“Given the information publicly available, we think the falling objects are not fireballs from meteorites, but debris from a rocket,” said a NAOJ official, who declined to be named.

“The slow speed and the way the light moved — threads of lights moving in parallel — looked exactly like the atmospheric entry of debris from a rocket,” he said.

“It is possible that (it was) debris from a rocket that was launched by China in November,” he added, saying “There is information that part of the rocket was expected to re-enter the atmosphere” around that time.

The debris was likely to have fallen into the ocean and posed no danger, he said, citing predictions of the route it would have taken.

“It was beautiful, it looked like a weeping cherry blossom tree,” one Twitter user wrote of the display.

“But it’s good to know it wasn’t something dangerous.”

There was no information regarding the possible launch of a North Korean military reconnaissance satellite or trouble with U.S. military aircraft, an intelligence source said Wednesday. Okinawa Prefecture is home to the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan.

“They moved eastward toward the city of Okinawa” in the central part of the prefecture’s main island, said a man who saw the fireballs from the adjacent town of Kadena at around 8:35 p.m. Wednesday.

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