Residents in the northeastern U.S. were treated to a dazzling spectacle late on Sunday night when a meteor blazed through the night sky.
The meteor was spotted by at least 120 people who detailed their experiences on the American Meteor Society’s (AMS) website, which classed the object as a fireball.
In astronomy, a fireball is another term for a very bright meteor that exceeds a magnitude—or brightness—of negative 4. This is about as bright as the planet Venus in the morning or evening sky. For comparison, the full moon has a magnitude of about negative 12.6.
Sunday’s reports came from a wide area including New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and even across the Canadian border in Ontario and Quebec.
One person managed to capture a video of the spectacle via their car dashcam, seen in the video above. The short five-second clip, taken in Palmyra, New York, shows the fireball appearing out of nowhere in the sky and shining brightly for a moment before it zooms out of sight.
Witness reports suggest it was a short-lived event; most people said the duration of the fireball was between 1.5 and 3.5 seconds.
Still, that was enough to stun many viewers. One witness from Middleburg, Pennsylvania, wrote in their AMS report that she and her spouse were walking their dogs at night when they noticed their surroundings suddenly brighten.
“We were walking in the dark, flashlights off, and suddenly the empty fields lit up as brightly as if there were a full moon,” the witness wrote. “We looked up then and saw several seconds of a beautiful green meteor shooting across the sky.”
One person in Milton, Delaware, called the fireball “the best, brightest, nearest thing I’ve ever seen in the night sky since a very large blue fragmenting event over the Everglades in the early 2000s”.
“This was just one amazing thing to see,” reported another Pennsylvania resident. “It came out of nowhere high in the sky, lasted a second or two, was beautifully blue at the end and was gone almost instantly. Amazing experience.”
Many people who reported the event said they did not hear any associated sounds, though some did. One witness in Lawrence, New Jersey, said they heard what sounded like “a sonic boom far, far off in the distance” at the same time as they saw the fireball.
Although seeing a fireball might be a rare spectacle for many, they’re actually very common; several thousand blaze through Earth’s atmosphere every single day. However, many will occur over uninhabited areas, during daylight hours, or perhaps during periods of heavy cloud cover meaning they are not visible.
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