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What did Montanans see in the night sky Tuesday?

Montana residents witness strange lights in the sky Tuesday night
Posted at 5:28 PM, Jul 13, 2022

BILLINGS — Was it a shooting star? What about a comet? If you were outside Tuesday night, you may have witnessed quite the spectacle: Multiple lights shooting across the night sky that caught the attention of many Montana residents.

“It was absolutely memorizing. It was kind of showstopping, it was that neat,” said one Laurel woman, who identified herself as Kari K., on Tuesday.

As showstopping as the lights in the sky were to witness, there was one question many asked after the lights stopped them in their tracks.

“Is that a comet? I had never seen like a comet before, in real life. So, I'm like, I want to get a closer look at this," said her son, Kyle B.

“It was more of an awe moment than scared, I suppose. We just wanted to know what it was,” said James Young, who saw the lights while on his porch in Lockwood.

Ryan Hannahoe, the executive director of the Montana Learning Center, said their meteor detection system detected a fuel tank of a Russian rocket entering the atmosphere at 10:08 p.m. Tuesday.

“With the friction and the speed and how it was traveling, it broke up. And what we saw in the sky was that breaking up and then streaking across the sky,” Hannahoe said.

It was a sight to see and one that doesn't happen often here in Montana.

“It’s just a little piece of space junk coming back in. Well, more than a little piece,” said Hannahoe.

Not a shooting star. Not a comet or meteor. Just a piece of space junk that gave Montanans a beautiful show.

“To actually hear it could have been a Russian satellite or something that was blowing up that makes sense for what I was seeing. Because it was alarming, it wasn’t a normal thing that you see in the night sky,” Kari said.