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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Rocket Lights Up U.S. Sky

TRENTON, New Jersey -- A fiery object streaked across the sky over much of the U.S. east coast Thursday, and U.S. Navy officials said it was a Russian rocket that re-entered the atmosphere after orbiting Earth since 1975.

The SL3 rocket body re-entered the atmosphere shortly before 2 p.m. Mos-cow time (6 a.m. locally) about 160 kilometers off Delaware, said Navy Commander Rod Gibbons, a spokesman for U.S. Space Command in Colorado.

"The object was not designed to survive re-entry" and likely burned up before any pieces could reach the ground, Gibbons said. He said the rocket was one of 8,300 man-made objects in space that the center was tracking. Some 17,000 objects have re-entered Earth's atmosphere since the late 1950s, he said.

People from Massachusetts to Virginia reported seeing the object.

Charles Tekula, 49, a commercial fisherman in New York, was with his son when he saw the sky light up.

"My son said it looked like a big, slow-moving firework across the sky," Tekula said. "We were speechless. It was the most fantastic thing I'd ever seen." Reentry Assessment