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8 News NOW I-Team

I-Team: Exploring the mysterious fireball in Vegas valley sky

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The West was still buzzing about a brief, but spectacular light show spotted in the Vegas valley sky Wednesday night.

Nevadans had front row seats as a mysterious fireball blazed across the skies over three states and was captured on numerous cell phone cameras. 

Defense officials say the object was a piece of Russian space debris, but a lot of other theories have been proposed by those who saw it.

The I-Team’s George Knapp got more than a few calls and messages about what it might have been, and on social media, our viewers suggested the I-Team strap on tin foil hats, grab light sabers, and head out to Pahrump to investigate.  The I-Team was happy to comply.
  
As usual, in cases where something strange is observed in the sky, theories, and supposed explanations were abundant.

“Got a comet flying around here in Vegas,” Donald Henderson said, a local resident who captured the debris on cell phone video.
 
Henderson posted one of the first and best videos of the fireball as it blazed across the sky. He had the same reaction as many: “Holy crap.”

At another home — the object interrupted what sounded like a pretty good party.

“It’s all breaking up.”
“It IS a comet!”
“That’s over our valley man.”

Many others who saw it used descriptions not suitable for television.

“What the #*$@! is that?!” 
“It ain’t no shooting star @#*$!  
“Yo, it’s close dude.” 
“What the #*$@!”

The object looked like it was close everywhere it was seen around the Vegas valley.

8 News Now Meteorologist Tedd Florendo was out and about on the job when he spotted it just before a live broadcast.

“Please send us those pictures because as a meteorologist, an amazing sight,” Florendo said.

Depending on the angle of the viewer, it looked like a ball of light, a fuzzy comet or an object on fire.  Some witnesses watched for as much as 30 seconds, which would make it one heck of an unusual meteor.

NASA scientist told reporters it was a meteor.

Journalists were able to tell us what it wasn’t.

“It wasn’t a bird or a plane or Superman or Supergirl,” said a CBS News reporter.

“Well, that’s a load off,” 8 News NOW Chief Investigative Reporter George Knapp sarcastically said.

About six hours after the incident everyone heard the buzzkill.

“U.S. Strategic Command says it was Russian space debris,” said Anthony Mason of CBS News.

The announcement came from the U.S. military.  The U.S. military said it was space debris,  some flotsam or jetsam discarded by the Russians.

We knew it all along the Joint Space Command said, without  explaining why they didn’t bother to tell anyone in advance, in much the same way they didn’t tell anyone about the object that lit up the skies a few months ago.  It was a ‘missile launch’ they said later.

Don’t you worry your fuzzy little heads, the military says. This stuff from space is not a threat.

Do you remember the 2013 space object that exploded over Russia with a force of 500 kilotons of TNT? 

Space Command tracks about 16,000 objects circling the earth — the ones they will tell us about that is.

Remember that piece of space debris in the movie “Starman” and how they trakced that one? 

The latest fireball generated reams of newspaper coverage and headlines — someone at the new Las Vegas Review-Journal green lighted a story.

On social media, a lot of people thought this was a job for the I-Team,   maybe because the 8 News NOW I-Team recently reported on the 1962 fireball that landed in Utah and took off again before exploding over Mesquite.  The Air Force said that was also a meteor.

A viewer named Stephen said he looked forward to the government explanation that this latest one was a, “a test rocket.”

If we ever have a case of something that is genuinely anomalous or exotic that comes crashing into the atmosphere and is seen by a large number of people, chances are pretty good that we would be told it’s just space debris, and in a way, that would be accurate. 
   
If the folks who track all these 16,000 objects in space want to gain public trust, maybe they could let us know in advance whenever we’re likely to see something unusual in the sky.
 

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