Courtesy of AL.com
Following bright lights and loud booms seen and heard south of Birmingham and across Alabama last night, NASA officials in Huntsville confirmed that a bright meteor did indeed pass unusually close to the earth's surface.
The meteor appeared at 8:18 p.m. local time and entered the atmosphere at 76,000 mph, said Bill Cooke, head of the Meteoroid Environments Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center.
Fireball_20130910_011814.pngThis image from NASA shows the trajectory of the "fireball," a meteor that is 15 times as bright as Venus. It entered earth's atmosphere on Tuesday, September 9, 2013 and disintegrated above the town of Woodstock, Ala.
"It was a meteor, a fireball, and a very bright one," said Cooke. "We tracked it down to the altitude of 25 miles, which is very low for a meteor," he said.
Twitter lit up with #fireball mentions throughout Birmingham, and Cooke said that's the right term to use to describe a meteor like this.
"A fireball is bright meteor, a meteor brighter than the planet Venus," he said. "This one looks like it was as bright as the moon was tonight."
The fireball seen Monday night was 15 times brighter than Venus, Cooke said.
At such high speeds, Cooke said that "fragile cometary material will not last long" - only about three seconds after hitting the atmosphere, the meteor disintegrated 25 miles above the town of Woodstock.
Because the meteor penetrated so deep into Earth's atmosphere, sonic booms were produced, which some witnesses reported hearing.
Although the meteor made quite an impact on those who witnessed it firsthand, Cooke said that it was actually no larger than a bowling ball. Further analysis will be done to determine the meteor's actual size.
NASA cameras that caught the event are located at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville; the James Smith Planetarium near Chickamauga, Georgia; the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville Georgia; and the North Georgia College Observatory near Dahlonega, Georgia.