That light show in the night sky? Thank Russia

It wasn’t a meteor or Superman or one of those “Star Wars” Tie Fighters.

The bright light streaking across the skies in parts of California and Nevada on Tuesday night was caused by debris from a Russian rocket that was returning into Earth’s atmosphere.

An SL-4 rocket body booster that had been launched Monday from Russia caused the light, Julie Ziegenhorn, a spokeswoman for U.S. Strategic Command, told the Associated Press.

The light had prompted all sorts of speculation about what it might be.

People posted videos and photos of the light on social media, with some saying it lasted 10 to 20 seconds.

The Los Angeles Police Department said it had not gotten any reports of the lights. A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Some, such as Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office, said it probably was a meteor. Fireball events occur almost nightly somewhere on Earth, he said, but they are not usually seen over populated areas.

"Fireballs occur when small — basketball-sized or Volkswagen-sized — asteroids enter the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrate from the atmospheric friction," Yeomans said in an email.

But it was no meteor or Santa’s sleigh. The light show was pretty much space junk, courtesy of Russia.

Times staff writer Hector Becerra contributed to this report.

Follow me on Twitter @taygoldenstein

MORE: Get our best stories in your Facebook feed >>

ALSO

California snowpack exceeds average for first time in years

Winter storm could plague holiday travelers

Lyft can pick you up at LAX starting Wednesday

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

8:01 a.m. Dec. 23: This article was updated with details about the bright light's origin.

This article was originally published Dec. 22 at 10:35 p.m.

EDITION: California | U.S. & World
58°