September 11, 2013
Meteor Lights Up Skies Over Alabama and Georgia
[ Watch The Video: Bright Meteor Captured Over Georgia/Tennessee ]
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A meteor the size of a baseball entered the Earth’s atmosphere last night, causing a fireball to blaze across the skies of Alabama and Georgia, and producing loud sonic booms. As is often the case, eyewitnesses and residents near Woodstock, Alabama, where the meteor passed overhead, took to Twitter to discover what had just happened over their state.
NASA has now confirmed the meteor, saying it flew into the atmosphere from the northwest at a speed of 76,000 miles per hour.
Because it was traveling so fast, the meteor broke up rapidly and disintegrated after spending only three seconds in our atmosphere. Eyewitnesses reported seeing a giant flash of green light as the meteor burned up in the sky, and pictures released today by NASA provide visual confirmation of the spectacular event.
According to officials at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the piece of meteor entered the atmosphere at 8:18 p.m. central time Tuesday evening and finally burned out shortly thereafter about 30 miles away from Birmingham.
"Objects of this size hit the Earth's atmosphere on a daily basis, but this one happened near Birmingham, which is a fairly decently sized city and lot of people saw it," explained NASA’s head of Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center Bill Cooke in a statement to Reuters.
“This one wasn't at 2 in the morning, so a lot of people were out and about.”
Fireballs are normally compared to the planet Venus in terms of brightness. However, this Alabama-Georgia meteor was up to 15 times brighter - as bright as the moon - said Cooke.
NASA has also released images on their blog of the meteor screeching across the sky. Cameras at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville; the James Smith Planetarium near Chickamauga, Georgia; the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville Georgia and the North Georgia College Observatory near Dahlonega, Georgia were all able to pick up images of the bright streak of light.
Eyewitnesses were understandably rattled when they saw the large, green fireball in their sky.
"I saw what I first thought was a falling star and then it turned bright green," said one eyewitness, according to Reuters.
“Many reports of a #fireball streaking across the SE sky tonight, mainly from #Alabama. Sonic booms also being reported,” Tweeted Grant Gilmore, AMS certified meteorologist at North Carolina news station WFMY.
As luck would have it, the meteor entered the atmosphere as thousands were attending a nearby concert by the popular British band, Mumford and Sons, where several people confirmed seeing the fireball.
It was only two weeks ago that another fireball screamed across the skies of Georgia and Tennessee. On August 28 at 3:27 a.m. local time, a meteor piece about two feet in diameter entered the atmosphere and streaked northeast at a slower 56,000 miles per hour. The meteor began to break up about 33 miles above Earth's surface when a second piece of meteor also entered the atmosphere. Witnesses also heard sonic booms from this fireball and some Doppler weather stations incorrectly reported rain as tiny meteoric particles fell to the earth.