Astronomy expert squashes extra-terrestrial rumors about mysterious lights

What we know about the lights that streaked across the sky in Sacramento

What we know about the lights that streaked across the sky in Sacramento


SACRAMENTO – When a sudden string of lights raced through the sky Friday night, people whipped out their cell phones to capture it.

“Wow. What is that?!” You could hear the excitement on one viewer’s cell phone video.  “I’ve never seen a tail like that. Are these spaceships? That is amazing.”

Raj Dixit says it’s just an old satellite that went ‘belly up.’  The Vice President of the Sacramento Valley Astronomical Society put all the extra-terrestrial rumors to rest.

“This was an old Japanese communication satellite known as ICS. It was lost to the International Space Station back in 2009 and then quickly died and became space junk,” Dixit told CBS13.

While that satellite was launched back in 2009, it took more than a decade to get back down to Earth. Dixit says there’s some space junk decades older that is still floating around.  But Dixit says most of it is in an orbit that’s so stable, it’s not coming down for many, many years. Meanwhile, he’s putting all the extra-terrestrial rumors to rest.

“I think aliens would be smart enough not to explode in the atmosphere. You would hope that if they could get across the universe, they wouldn’t blow up as soon as they got here,” said Dixit.  “As much as we like to fantasize about UFOs or alien invasions or Armageddon asteroids, the truth is a little bit more mundane but interesting,” said Dixit. 

Friday night’s space debris was estimated about 40 miles high and going thousands of miles per hour. According to NASA’s website, Department of Defense sensors are tracking roughly 27,000 pieces of space junk and most are larger than a softball.