Did you notice a bright flash of light around midnight Thursday night/early Friday morning? If so, you may have spotted a fireball!
Dr. Bill Cooke from NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center captured it on several cameras and tells us this:
'Last night, at 12:19 AM Central Daylight Time, numerous eyewitnesses in the SouthEast reported seeing a very bright fireball, which was also detected by all six NASA meteor cameras in the region.
Analysis of the data indicates that the meteor was first seen at an altitude of 58 miles above Turkeytown, Alabama (northeast of Gadsden), moving west of north at 53,700 miles per hour. It fragmented some 18 miles above the small town of Grove Oak. Early results indicate the fireball, which was at least 40 times as bright as the Full Moon, was caused by a small asteroid 6 feet (2 meters) in diameter.
We are still assessing the probability of the fireball producing meteorites on the ground - whether it did or not, it was an extremely bright event, send through partly cloudy skies and triggering every camera and sensor operated by the Meteoroid Environment Office in the region.
Ground track, image from the color DFN camera at MSFC and image from the meteor camera at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega are attached (120 miles away - cameras closer than this were saturated). Video is available if interested.'
What is a fireball?
The American Meteor Society defines a fireball as a meteor that shines brighter than the planet Venus.
A meteor is a small piece of rocky, iron or icy debris flying in space that emits light as it enters the earths atmosphere. A meteor can be either a meteoroid (space debris that is one meter or less in size) or an asteroid (space debris that is one meter to hundreds of kilometers in size).
A meteorite is a fragment of a meteoroid or asteroid that survives passage through the earth’s atmosphere and strikes the ground.