A pair of bright fireballs lit up the skies over the central United States this past weekend, including one caused by a bolide large enough to set off a sonic boom over parts of Texas on Sunday night.
Fireballs, or exceptionally bright meteors, are actually tiny space rocks slamming into our atmosphere at dizzyingly high speeds and burning dramatically from the resulting friction.
The American Meteor Society has received more than 150 reports of one such meteor seen by night owls at 1:52 am ET on Friday. Most sightings have been reported or recorded in Indiana, but the sizzling space debris has been spotted from places as far away as northern Alabama and Wisconsin.
Just two nights later, at 10:52 pm on Sunday, more than 200 eyewitnesses reported seeing and even hearing a larger meteor above Texas.
“Several witnesses near the flight path reported hearing a delayed sonic boom, indicating that meteorites from this fireball may have survived the ground,” wrote AMS’ Robert Lunsford in a report.
Computer models of the fireball’s trajectory indicate that it entered our atmosphere above rural Texas, southeast of Austin. It then passed through the metropolitan area and burned just a few miles west of Austin.
While most meteors that create fleeting shooting stars as they burn are the size of pebbles before they hit our atmosphere, Lunsford estimates that the fireball over Austin may have initially been the size of a small car, passing through space further. of 16 kilometers per second before encountering our planet.
Most meteors burn up completely in the upper atmosphere, but as this larger object tilts towards Earth’s surface, all the heat from its collision with our atmosphere has likely burned away all but the smallest fragments.
The fireball was widely reported by local media in Texas, but so far there have been no reports of anyone discovering any resulting meteorites on the ground.
Fireballs are actually reported every day across the planet, despite the fact that many happen in the ocean or other remote area and most people will be lucky enough to catch one or two in their lifetime.
But the next few weeks are prime fireball spy season, thanks to the spike in someincluding the Perseids and a few others. Always good to keep an eye on the sky.