HomeTop StoriesMysterious streaks of light in the sky over Northern California

Mysterious streaks of light in the sky over Northern California

Streaks of light seen above the Sacramento sky

Streaks of light seen above the Sacramento sky


SAN FRANCISCO — Mysterious streaks of light were seen in the sky in the Sacramento area Friday night, shocking St. Patrick’s Day revelers who then posted videos to social media of the startling sight.

Jaime Hernandez was at the King Cong Brewing Company in Sacramento for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration when some of the group noticed the lights. Hernandez soon began filming. It was over in about 40 seconds, he said Saturday.

Light Streaks in California
Image from video by Jaime Hernandez shows streaks of light traveling through the sky over the Sacramento area on Friday night, March 17, 2023.

Jaime Hernandez via AP

“We were mostly in shock, but surprised to witness it,” Hernandez said in an email. “None of us had ever seen anything like it.”

The brewery owner posted Hernandez’s video to Instagram and asked if anyone could solve the mystery.

Jonathan McDowell says he can. McDowell is an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. McDowell said in an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday that he is 99.9% sure the streaks of light are from burning space debris.

McDowell said a Japanese communications package that relayed information from the International Space Station to a communications satellite and then back to Earth became obsolete in 2017 when the satellite was decommissioned. The equipment, weighing 683 pounds, was jettisoned from the space station in 2020 because it took up valuable space and would burn up completely upon reentry, McDowell added.

The flaming wreckage created a “spectacular light show in the sky,” McDowell said. He estimated the debris was about 40 miles high and was moving thousands of miles per hour.

The US Space Force confirmed the reentry path over California for the Inter-Orbit Communication System, and the timing matches what people saw in the sky, he added. The Space Force was not immediately available for questions on Saturday.

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