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What were the mysterious lights burning over the area?

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An astronomer said it was "space junk" re-entering the atmosphere.

MEDFORD, Ore. -- On Friday, thousands of people across Northern California and Southern Oregon were surprised to see a mysterious "light show" happening in the sky.

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This video footage taken by a viewer in Medford capture the moment as dozens of lights burned throughout the sky before eventually fizzling out.

But what were those lights? Some have claimed that it was a meteorite burning away in our atmosphere. However, according to one astronomer, the answer is much more simple.   

Johnathan McDowell is an astronomer for the CfA and explained over Twitter that the "mysterious light show" was, in fact, space junk that had re-entered the atmosphere. 

In his Twitter thread, McDowell explained that the debris was an ICS-EF, or an Inter-orbit Communications System - Exposed Facility, Japanese communications package that had been used to send data between the ISS Kibo module and Mission Control Tsukuba via the Kodama data relay satellite.

McDowell continued to explain that it was launched to the ISS on the Space Shuttle in 2009, but became space junk around 2020.

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For three years he said it orbited the Earth as space junk before finally reentering earth's atmosphere last night at 0430 UTC (9.30pm PDT) over California.

Brett Taylor is a reporter at NewsWatch 12. You can reach Brett at

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