The Washington Post

Fireball races across sky in Washington, D.C. Monday evening; a political metaphor?

A large meteor shot through the sky northeast of the District Monday evening around 8:25 p.m., to the amazement of scores of eyewitnesses in the region.

According the American Meteor Society, the fireball entered the atmosphere in southern New Jersey and zipped northwest bound into Lancaster County in southeast Pennsylvania.

Track of fireball from October 14 (8:25 p.m. EDT) was estimated to be from southern New Jersey to southeast Pennsylvania (American Meteor Society)
Track of fireball from October 14 (8:25 p.m. EDT) was estimated to be from southern New Jersey to southeast Pennsylvania (American Meteor Society)

“The fireball was seen from primarily Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia but witnesses from Washington DC, Connecticut and Pennsylvania also reported seeing the fireball,” the American Meteor Society says.

Heat map showing concentration of fireball sightings on October 14 (American Meteor Society)
Heat map showing concentration of fireball sightings on October 14 (American Meteor Society)

Many local Capital Weather Gang readers reported seeing the blaze.  Here are a few accounts:

From Twitter…



From Facebook…

Debbie Grossman: My daughter and I saw it in Takoma Park! Traveling approx SE to NW. Really large and bright! fragments

Jim Schuyler: Here in Baltimore, confirmed sighting yes. Very bright fireball too. Pretty impressive.

Brian R. Hinman: Yes, I saw it in the north sky. Bright blue with pieces breaking off. Very impressive.

Brian Reitz: Yes lasted several seconds. Was east of DC heading north and broke up before it disappeared.

Crystal Benton Geller: I saw it while driving on South Riding around 8:30. It was green with a long white tail. It was very close!

Denise Marie Richards: Saw it in Reston. Quite impressive. It looked like a low firework flaring out.

A metaphor for broken political system?

Not surprisingly, some readers took the opportunity to connect the exploding space rock with D.C.’s fragmented political climate and the government shutdown:

On Facebook:

Bruce W. Sutton: That would be John Boehner’s soul flaming out…

On Twitter:





Fireball background information

Partisan gridlock or not, fireballs are not uncommon in the region. As recently as March 22, a vibrant fireball streaked through the evening sky dazzling hundreds of onlookers.

Here’s some useful background on the phenomena from the America Meteor Society:

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.

Read more here: Fireball frequently asked questions (American Meteor Society)

Related reading:

Amazing fireball streaks through West Virginia sky (PHOTO)

Fireball blazes across skies in Southeast, outshining moon (VIDEO)

Russian meteor deposited dust trail that traveled the world

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

Jason is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.
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