Oct. 1—VALDOSTA — More than 100 people across the Southeast, including a Valdosta man, saw a fire in the skies Thursday night — a fire that may have been a spacecraft.
Spotters from Iowa to central Florida caught a glimpse of a blaze with a long tail, according to the American Meteor Society's website. More than 130 confirmed sightings, including one from Valdosta and another from Ocilla, were reported to the society.
Dr. Martha A. Leake, professor of astronomy and physics at Valdosta State University, said she didn't see the fireball but was aware of the multitude of sightings.
"The sighting (in Valdosta) would have been around 10:50 p.m., which would have been consistent with other sightings in Alabama, Florida and Tennessee," she said.
There were no reports of the object breaking up, as meteors often do, she said.
Speculation is rife the mystery object was a spacecraft.
The meteor society's website carried a banner stating the sightings Thursday night were not of a natural object but appeared to be "the re-entry of an unknown satellite or rocket."
The private space launch firm SpaceX tweeted Thursday night that its unmanned Dragon cargo drone's "descent as it enters the atmosphere prior to splashdown may be visible in parts of Florida and Georgia."
The unmanned Dragon is used for supply runs to the International Space Station. It can be reused after a successful splashdown and SpaceX later said the Dragon had come down safely after the company's 23rd cargo mission to the ISS.
Terry Richards is senior reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times.