They are among the most fleeting of heavenly phenomena: fireballs. If you are indoors or looking in the wrong direction, you will miss them. But if you are lucky, as a Calvert County, Md., woman was Thursday night, you could have been awed and amazed by what some are calling the East Coast fireball.

“I’ve never really seen anything like that,” Sharon Brunson said. She was driving about 10:15 p.m. when “something shot out of the sky.” The bright red, orange and yellow glow sliced across the darkness for only a few seconds, but, Brunson said, it was “pretty incredible.”

Reports of the fireball were sent to the American Meteor Society from the District, Maryland and Virginia as well as states to the north and south.

“We said, ‘Wow, what was that?’ ” Tom Myrtle said, talking about how he and his wife saw it from their car in Charlottesville. It seemed “so close,” he said, and “so bright” that they thought it must have landed nearby, and they kept driving past their destination in hopes of finding the spot where it hit.

“It looked really, really big,” he said.

Jesse Midgett saw it in Smithfield, Va. He could not get a good look, because he was riding his motorcycle. But, he said, “ it was definitely lighting up the entire area like a distant lightning bolt.”

Fireballs are created as pieces of space debris that plunge toward the earth, and burn up from the heat generated by their passage through the atmosphere. Some are bigger than others.

Aileen Donoghue of Southwest Washington had seen other shooting stars. But she said Thursday night’s fireball “was like nothing I’ve seen before.”