Dramatic meteor streaks through evening sky

Heat map showing density of meteor sightings from the American Meteor Society, which has received over 300 reports from the East Coast.
Heat map showing density of meteor sightings from the American Meteor Society, which has received over 300 reports mostly along the East Coast.

Our social media feeds are being peppered by reports that a large, vibrant meteor shot through the sky shortly after 7:50 p.m.   The meteor traveled from west to east in the northeast sky eyewitnesses say.

The American Meteor Society (AMS) has received over 300 reports of the meteor from Florida to Maine, and over 50 reports from Canada.

(UPDATE, 10:45 p.m.) WUSA9 posted this video of the meteor, captured by a home security camera in Thurmont, Md.:

This is another video, taken from an auto dealership security camera in Salisbury, Md.:

Here are some of the accounts we’ve received via Twitter:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a couple reports from our Facebook readers:

Jamie Coe: I saw it in Midlothian Virginia at 7:53pm. Never seen anything quite like it. Very bright green with a yellow tail.

M L Anderson Relle: I saw it, around 7:50 pm, eastern sky, white streak turning to flash of green and careening to the ground. I am in western Montgomery County near the Potomac River. The dusky sky was too light for it to have been a shooting star, the object was also too big, I thought it was a crashing plane, it started out white and burst into green.

These accounts suggest this meteor met the criteria of a fireball: a larger than normal meteor. Here are some helpful details on fireballs from the AMS:

A fireball is a meteor that is larger than normal. Most meteors are only the size of tiny pebbles. A meteor the size of a softball can produce light equivalent to the full moon for a short instant. The reason for this is the extreme velocity at which these objects strike the atmosphere. Even the slowest meteors are still traveling at 10 miles per SECOND, which is much faster than a speeding bullet. Fireballs occur every day over all parts of the Earth.

Fireballs often appear much closer than they really are. The AMS receives countless reports that an object landed just over the hill when in fact it was several hundred miles away and was witnessed over several states or provinces. It is your perspective that makes meteors appear to strike the horizon when in fact they are still high in the atmosphere. This is much like a jetliner seen low in your sky. It appears low to you and close to the ground, but for someone located many miles away in that direction, the jetliner is passing high overhead. Meteors become visible at approximately 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. Friction slows these objects down until they fall below the velocity necessary to produce light. At this point they still lie at least 5 miles high in the sky. They are invisible below this altitude and cannot be seen as they basically free falling to the ground at 200mph. Very few meteors actually reach the ground as 99.99% completely disintegrate while still 10-20 miles up in the atmosphere.

Eyewitnesses can log their meteor/fireball reports on the AMS website.  Scores of sightings from this evening’s event have been entered.

Related: Surprise attack: Meteor explodes over Russia hours before giant asteroid flyby (VIDEO)

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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Ian Livingston · March 22, 2013