Witnesses describe the sight as “epic” and “jaw dropping.”

Late Sunday night, Hawaiians were treated to the cosmos vomiting out a great stream of fire. In two-dozen reports to the American Meteor Society, witnesses called it “jaw dropping,fragmented like fireworks,” “so close” and “so bright.” Wrote one:

I've NEVER seen anything like this. At least not to the brightness, width, [length], colors, trails, pass over the entire sky and feel so close. I have seen one amazing ball of fire cross the entire sky one time in my life as well as other small ones, meteor showers and haleys comet. This was epic.

What appeared to be a flock of meteors had a terrestrial explanation. It was likely a creaky Russian spacecraft launched in the 1980s, ending its life in a fiery plunge through the earth’s atmosphere.

The Cosmos 1315 satellite went up in 1981 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on a signals-intelligence mission. It had been forgotten by most outside the space-geek crowd until this weekend, when its disintegrating body shot out balls of flame like an exploding fireworks stand. Given the lack of debris on the ground, it’s probably now resting with the sharks and eels at the bottom of the ocean.

Quick-witted photographers managed to capture its surreal, sluggish-looking immolation. (Meteors can zip through the sky at up to 45 miles per second, but satellites tend to orbit slower, around 5 mps.) Here’s what people saw, omitting one nice video with cussing.

A photo posted by III% (@808speedshop) on

A photo posted by @ivopro on

A photo posted by Connor (@cc_lowell) on

A photo posted by brandall_13 (@brandall_13) on

A photo posted by @clairvoyantdreamer on

H/t Bad Astronomy

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Smoke from the fires hangs over Brazil.
    Environment

    Why the Amazon Is on Fire

    The rash of wildfires now consuming the Amazon rainforest can be blamed on a host of human factors, from climate change to deforestation to Brazilian politics.

  2. An aerial photo of downtown Miami.
    Life

    The Fastest-Growing U.S. Cities Aren’t What You Think

    Looking at the population and job growth of large cities proper, rather than their metro areas, uncovers some surprises.

  3. Graduates react near the end of commencement exercises at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S.
    Life

    Which U.S. Cities Have the Most Educated Populations?

    Even though superstar hubs top the list of the most educated cities, other cities are growing their share at a much faster rate.

  4. a map of London Uber driver James Farrar's trip data.
    Transportation

    For Ride-Hailing Drivers, Data Is Power

    Uber drivers in Europe and the U.S. are fighting for access to their personal data. Whoever wins the lawsuit could get to reframe the terms of the gig economy.

  5. a photo of a tiny house in Oregon
    Design

    How Amazon Could Transform the Tiny House Movement

    Could the e-commerce giant help turn small-home living from a niche fad into a national housing solution?

×