Case File Status: Likely Explainable


The following case was submitted to The Black Vault / TBV Investigations on March 17, 2018, the day of the sighting.  It was assigned to Michael Kelly for analysis.

Witness Testimony

The following testimony was submitted by the witness:

“At 0559 3/17/18 I witnessed a large object shaped similar to the space shuttle but much larger enter the atmosphere. At first I thought I was looking at a falling star. I watched and waited for it to disappear but instead it turned bright orange and grew larger and brighter. I started to see a trail of orange sparks behind it. I lost it when it went behind a house. it was still night it was going towards the coast. it lasted 20/30 seconds i was alone, on my morning walk no photos, i didn’t have time to get my phone out I don’t know what this was. I just don’t think it was a plane because I couldn’t find anything about a plane crash on the news.”

The Analysis

by Michael Kelly, TBV Investigations

An artist’s concept of China’s Tiangong-1 space station prototype burning up in Earth’s atmosphere during its fiery fall back to Earth overnight on April 1-2, 2018.
Credit: Alejandro Miranda/Alamy

The description of the object getting larger and brighter as well as shooting off sparks is consistent with an object entering the atmosphere from space. The most likely scenario of an object entering the atmosphere would be a meteor, but other possibilities are satellites or similar artificial objects.

One likely possibility is a piece of the Chinese Tiangong-1 Space Station which crashed to Earth a few weeks after the witness made the sighting. This object broke into pieces and orbited the Earth a few times before crashing down on March 28th in the Pacific Ocean.

It is possible a piece of the space station entered the atmosphere before that date.

Below is a video of the space station as it enters the atmosphere, for reference:

Additional Information: 

As early as January of 2018 USA Today reported that the space station and its debris would likely fall to earth beginning in March, most likely between 43 degrees North and 43 degrees South latitudes. Bakersfield, CA lies at 35.3733° N latitude, so it is not inconceivable that some of the debris from this space station could have been visible from Bakersfield.


Without more information, this object is difficult to identify exactly, but it is almost certainly a meteor or man-made satellite of some kind. It was undoubtedly an object entering Earth’s atmosphere from space, so the possibilities for what the object could be have to exclude anything incapable of being in space like an airplane or hot air balloon.

My best guess is that the object witnessed by the observer was a piece of the Tiangong-1 Space Station.

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