Around 2 a.m. local time on Saturday 30th January, astrophotographer Steve Cullen was driving home from visiting the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. He stopped at around 11,000 feet to take some panorama shots of the peak, but what he got was much more.

He noticed an orange light heading up into the sky out of the west. It was moving across the sky at about the speed you’d expect from a satellite, but at that time of night no satellite moving at that rate would be lit by the Sun, so it wouldn’t be visible.

Within seconds, though, it became clear what he was seeing: some sort of human-made space debris re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. How?

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