Exploding space junk puzzles California sky watchers

Mysterious, golden streaks lit up the sky across southern California early on Tuesday morning, leaving at least one viewer asking: "Dude, what was that?"

Many thought it was a meteor shower or a comet or a SpaceX launch misfire, but analysts say it was a Chinese rocket re-entering Earth's atmosphere.

Many who witnessed the incident started posting video to social media and calling local radio stations.

Such space junk showers have become more common in recent years.

The Aerospace Corporation, a US-funded non-profit, said in a statement: "Our analysis suggests that the object seen re-entering over Los Angeles this morning was the orbital module from the November 2022 Chinese Shenzhou-15 launch to their space station."

The corporation used tracking data from the USSF 18th Space Defense Squadron to identify the object, which was estimated to have a mass of about 1,500kg (3,300lbs).

The light show came about six hours after a successful SpaceX launch, causing some to speculate mistakenly that something had gone wrong there.

The Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilisation at the Chinese Academy of Sciences was not immediately available for comment.

University of Southern California space relations expert Madhu Thangavelu told the BBC the global space community is expanding and needs to be responsible.

"I'm hoping all of it burnt out in upper atmosphere," said Mr Thangavelu, adding that some of it may have landed in the Pacific. There were no reports of debris landing on land.