Fiery meteor streaks across the Mid-Atlantic sky

10:10 p.m. update: Arturo Seleme shared a dashcam video from Falls Church, Va which appears to show the meteor streaking by (see upper left) earlier this evening.

From 8:10 p.m.:A meteor described by many as very bright, and quite colorful, streaked across the sky around 7:08 p.m. this evening.

Information is still streaming in, but as of 8 p.m., more than two dozen reports have been logged by the American Meteor Society.

In addition, many folks on Twitter have sent in their observations to us:

 

 

 

 

Additional reports on Facebook tell the same story of a stunningly bright streak across the night sky:

Jennifer Starkey: I saw it in Fairfax. It was huge!

Julie Matthews: I was getting on 495 from 95 – it was huge! I was waiting for an explosion. Really cool.

Due to the volume and description of reports across the area, it’s a decent bet this will be classified as a fireball event. The American Meteor Society describes what a fireball is:

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.

If you saw the meteor, take a moment to report it to the AMS so they can better catalog this event!

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PM Update: Way colder than it's supposed to be Friday; single digit wind chills tonight