A long streak of rocket debris from SpaceX was seen above Seattle on this Thursday night, and experts say it was human-caused.

A long streak of rocket debris from SpaceX was seen from Snohomish County to Salem, Oregon Thursday night.

A surprise lightshow in the sky above Seattle drew eyes and questions Thursday night, and experts say it was human-caused.

Long streaks of light appeared around 9 p.m., lasting about a minute, visible from Seattle to Portland. In videos posted to social media, many speculated the event was a comet or meteor shower, among other more fantastic things.

“I don’t believe in aliens, but for a minute, I thought, ‘Okay, this is happening,’” laughed Annie Kimsey, who captured video of the lights streaking by the Space Needle. “I mean, 2020 was crazy. 2021 is just trying to beat that.”

But experts believe there’s a more terrestrial explanation: debris from a SpaceX rocket burning up as it sped through the upper atmosphere.

“What really set off our intuition that it wasn’t a meteor was that it’s moving so slowly and that it was in the sky for a long time, just sort of tracking there,” said Dr. James Davenport, a University of Washington professor of astronomy.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Center for Astrophysics, also pointed to the SpaceX rocket stage on Twitter, sharing an image of the returning craft’s path. SpaceX has not commented on the incident or responded to requests from KING 5.

SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk of Tesla electric car fame.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in question launched March 4, delivering 60 Starlink satellites to low-earth orbit. Starlink is a program using web satellites to provide broadband internet anywhere on the planet.

Davenport said, while the Falcon 9 booster is famously designed to land remotely on a drone ship for reuse, this later stage is intended to burn up in the atmosphere after delivering its payload. However, he believes its de-orbit burn was not successful, during which the craft turns tail-first and fires its engine to slow its speed and drop to earth. That error brought the debris into the atmosphere above a populated area — instead of the ocean, Davenport said.

That meant a lot of people, many armed with cameras, got to witness a view that usually happens out-of-sight.

Among them, Stephen Vilke on Bainbridge Island, who captured an image of the entire visible flight. His minute-long video shows the bright spot appear on the horizon, then scatter into many streaking points of light before fizzling out. He also believes another angle captured the craft briefly skipping off the atmosphere just before the main event.

Originally published at King 5