Colorful Meteor Streaks Across Sky

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A meteor streaked low across the sky Friday night, sparking a social media frenzy. NBC10's Chris Cato talks to a local astronomer for more information about the spectacular sight. (Published Sunday, Mar 24, 2013)

    A meteor lit up the sky Friday night over the East Coast.

    Social media exploded over meteor sightings as far North as New England and down to North Carolina.

    The streak of light, described as "awesome" and "a firework in the sky," was first reported shortly before 8 p.m. on Friday.

    "We got more than 400 reports in less than an hour, which is unheard of," said Mike Hankey, an amateur astronomer and Operations Manager at the American Meteor Society.

    AMS says they got so many reports on Friday, it temporarily shut down their website.

    "320 is the most reports we've had on a single event before and that was in 2010 in Wisconsin," said Hankey.

    They ranged in location as far North as Ontario and as far as Florida, he said, but the bulk came from Maine down to Maryland.

    Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer from the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, tells NBC10 that meteors are not unusual, but this one may have been large in size, which is why it was spotted over such a large area. He also says that meteors usually don't enter the atmosphere as low as the one on Friday did.

    "These objects are typically about the size of a volleball, maybe bigger than that," said Pitts. "They will typically disintegrate long before they reach the ground."

    He stresses there is no danger, but says there is heightened awareness these days because of what recently happened in Russia.

    Back in mid-February, hundreds of people were hurt when a meteorite exploded over Russia. It was caught on video by multiple eyewitnesses. According to Nature, it was the largest object to hit Earth in the past century.

    Although some social media reports claim Friday's meteor crashed along the Delaware/ Maryland border, Pitts says he's heard no confirmation of that.

    "Usually if something streaks across the sky, it may seem like it's coming down to the ground, but it has simply passed beyond your visible horizon," said Pitts.

    "Scientists will look at trajectories like ours and use other tools like Doppler radar to help them determine what type of event we're talking about and if there is any evidence to look for on the ground," said Hankey.

    Hankey will go through all the eyewitness reports, approves the ones he deems credible and then runs them through a program that looks at location and time and plots a trajectory. That will show where the event began and it's track through the sky.

    In a moment of pure luck, Hankey says he too saw the meteor from his home in Montauk, Maryland.  "I had a fire going in the fireplace and I just happened to look out the window. It was pretty awesome."

    Here are some of the other eyewitness accounts posted via Facebook and Twitter.

    @EStevenCollins: I just saw what appeared to be a major asteroid shoot by in the sky!!! REALLY! It was so bright!!!! WOW!

     Bernadette Brady Greenwich posted, "Seen going west to east near Lansdowne Pa bright green with a tail and went behind clouds and ended with a bright flash. There was no sound,"

    Mary Davis Straub writes, "I was walking my dogs in Carneys Point and saw it. Was bright green! Was wondering what it was."

    Heather Angel Rogers describes it as "A Brite Orange light off highland Ave, Chester,Pa."

    "This Philly native saw it in Silver Spring MD. A hot white long tail with an electric green head in the northern sky just above the treeline. It appeared to burn up with a bright green flash," posted Elissa Leibowitz Poma.

    The colors varied-- some say it looked blue or green, others say it appeared yellow or orange, while one person posted on the NBC10 Facebook page, describing it as "cherry and white."

    Viewing meteors at different angles may cause them to look like different colors, according to Pitts.

     

     


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