Over the weekend, Hawaii residents witnessed a mysterious incident in the night sky that they believed was a UFO sighting. What onlookers thought was an alien vessel or a spaceship flying over their island state was actually a spent rocket.
The incident occurred on Saturday, when people on different islands witnessed a flurry of lights in the sky shortly after 10.00 pm, according to a local outlet Khon 2. As per the report, the lights were travelling to the east and the best view was witnessed by residents of the Big Island Maui.
Speaking with the publication, a local resident named Kuuip Kanawaliwali revealed that he videotaped the incident. "I started videotaping and when they got closer, I start freaking out because I'm like, 'Oh, what in the world is this?" said Kanawaliwali as quoted by the outlet.
"We actually didn't even know what to think. We didn't know what it was, where it came from," said Sheri English, another Molokai resident. "It just appeared. It was actually very eerie, eerie feeling."
Just when social media went into a frenzy with speculations, scientists at W. M. Keck Observatory offered an explanation. Chief Scientist John O'Meara revealed what people thought is a UFO flying across the sky was actually the reentry of a rocket booster.
They explained that this booster was from a Chinese rocket that was launched in the year 2008. This rocket was tasked with "boosting up a communication satellite for Venezuela."
It appears that this event was long predicted by astronomers who had found a map of the object's flight path. As per the map, it was near the Hawaiian Islands.
"So we can't be 100% certain because we don't have any of the pieces of the debris. But the pattern of the lights that we saw in our timelapse combined with this map," said Canada France Hawaii Telescope Strategic Communications Director Mary Beth Laychak. "This flight path and the precision at which all of these companies are able to estimate where their objects will enter and how they'll break up is what really leads us to believe that this was this Venesat-1 reentering the atmosphere."
The theory was confirmed by Professor Richard Wainscoat of the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy. According to the University of Hawai'i News, the exhausted rocket has been orbiting the Earth since its launch and now it has lost its "altitude due to friction with the tenuous atmosphere in low-Earth orbit." It is believed that on Saturday, it made its final orbits that led to the light show in the Hawaiian sky.
Wainscoat who works with the Pan-STARRS telescope on Haleakalā has predicted the reentry to occur at 7:24 pm Hawaiian time over the Atlantic Ocean. It appears the rocket spent a little more time in space than expected before burning out.
Canada France Hawaii Telescope has posted a timelapse video of the phenomena that was thought to be yet another UFO sighting in the sky.