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:
@capitalweather Yes! It was amazing in Montgomery County Pa. Bright. Orange. Blue. White. Silver. Totally streaking by the sky light! Wow!
— E. Steven Collins (@EStevenCollins) March 23, 2013
— Richard Kerr (@rkerr46) March 23, 2013
@capitalweather yes! It was amazing. A boloid, long streak of yellow and then an explosion of white and green. I’m in Bethesda, saw it East.
— Naomi Hart (@naomihart) March 23, 2013
— Chuck Wallace (@ChuckyWallace) March 23, 2013
@capitalweather I saw it from Petworth in the northeast sky. Bright, almost like a firework but streaking across the sky
— Keith Arscott (@kjars) March 23, 2013
@capitalweather Saw it in NYC out the window.
— Matthew Semel (@MattSemel) March 23, 2013
@capitalweather saw apparent meteor while heading north on BW Parkway. Long blue/green tail going west to east.
— Luke Dickinson (@LukeDickinson) March 23, 2013
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.