BECKVILLE, TX (KLTV) - A series of bright streaks that passed through the East Texas skies in the early morning hours on Wednesday have been traced back to the re-entry of a Chinese rocket body.
Shanyn Beason couldn't sleep last night and just happened to step outside at the right moment.
"When I walked out I saw fireworks, like multiple streams of fire," says Beason, who saw the rocket from Beckville, TX, near Carthage.
The American Meteor Society received numerous reports of a bright meteor that passed over Texas and Louisiana around 3:15 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The fireball broke into a cluster of smaller streaks that continued to move across the sky.
The AMS says that the fiery display was caused by the re-entry and disintegration of the Chinese rocket body CZ-4B, which was launched on May 10, 2012, from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in China.
"At first I thought it was a plane crash and then I realized it was high enough in the sky that it probably wasn't that so then I was just unsure what it was," Beason says.
We have highlighted the photo of the rocket disintegrating in the sky in the photo with a red circle. Trooper Clifton Mire said he took the photo in Morse, LA, about 80 miles east of the Texas border.
The light emitted from the disintegrating rocket was reported to be brighter than a full moon. Witnesses say that every color of the rainbow was displayed, with orange and yellow being most common.
Beason says the fireballs burned in the sky for less than a minute, "I walked over to the edge of the porch so I could see better and there were probably 10 to 12 shooting up into the sky and then three of them came more overhead until they just burned away."
According to the AMS, a fireball is a meteor that is larger than normal. Most meteors are only the size of small pebbles. However, a meteor the size of a softball can produce as much light as a full moon for a brief period of time. Very few meteors reach the ground - the majority burn up while still 10 to 20 miles above the Earth.
Robert Parish with TJC's Center for Earth and Space Education says the sighting isn't unusual. He says NORAD is tracking about 19,000 objects orbiting the earth right now and about a ton of it falls every year.
"Orbits are not perfect, they decay over time and that's due to lots of different things, but ultimately it's due to gravity. If it doesn't have enough fuel to ignite its engine and keep it in that stable orbit then it will slowly decay."
Beason says she doesn't expect to see anything like this again, "I think it's a once in a lifetime thing, it's definitely one of the coolest things I've seen."
Did you witness the disintegration of the rocket? Contact KLTV by e-mailing email@example.com or calling 903-510-7777.