NASA said a “fireball” meteor was seen up and down the East Coast Friday night, and it landed safely in the Atlantic Ocean.
See anything strange in the sky on Friday night?
You weren’t the only one. A bright streak of light was seen by people across Long Island around 8 p.m. on Friday - a light show bright enough to be seen from most of the East coast. The Huffington Post has received accounts of the flash by people from South Carolina to Connecticut - all of who got an eyeful of what was called a “single meteor event” by Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environmental Office.
In an interview with the Associated Press, chief astronomer Derrick Pitts of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia believes the phenomenon to be a meteor or “space rock” due to accounts by witnesses.
In the clearest skies, the meteor was visible for roughly 40 seconds. According to Cooke, the meteor entered the atmosphere over Eastern Pennsylvania, and looked like a “fireball,” meaning that it was a meteor that appears brighter than others - even brighter than the planet Venus.
“Judging from the brightness, we’re dealing with something as bright as the full moon,” said Cooke. “The thing is probably a yard across. We basically have (had) a boulder enter the atmosphere over the northeast.”
Maybe Chicken Little was right after all.
It was an amazing spectacle, a rapid succession of giant asteroids blazing across the sky. First, on February 15, Russia was hit with the biggest asteroid in 100 years. Barely a few hours later, an even bigger one made the closest approach to Earth ever recorded for an asteroid of its size. Then the residents of San Francisco, Cuba, and south Florida looked up and saw meteors streak across the sky, rattling their nerves.
The Sky Is Falling: Famous Meteors, Asteroids and Comets (Photos)A meteor streaks across the sky in Russia on the morning of February 15. 2013. (Nasha Gazeta/AP)
It was a historic display of nature’s cosmic firepower, something I never expected to see in my lifetime. Mother Nature was showing Hollywood who’s boss.
The city of Chelyabinsk in Russia bore the brunt of the celestial fireworks. A piece of rock, about 50 feet across and weighing more than 7,000 tons, came crashing to Earth. Traveling at a blinding speed of over 40,000 miles per hour, it created a sonic boom and shock wave that shattered windows across the city: 1,200 people were injured, mainly by the flying pieces of glass, and 52 were hospitalized, 2 of them in serious condition. Chelyabinsk, once known as one of the most polluted places in the world due to its storage of nuclear waste, will now be known as “meteor city.”
The asteroid packed a huge punch, the power of 20 Hiroshima bombs. It was a “city buster,” capable of flattening a modern metropolis and reducing it to rubble. It was a miracle that the asteroid exploded roughly 10 to 15 miles above ground: had there been a ground burst, it would have caused tens of thousands of casualties. If that asteroid had hit just a few seconds later, it would have created a tragedy on Earth.
While Russia was still reeling from the shock of this meteor impact, just a few hours later, 17,200 miles in space, an asteroid three times larger than the Russian one came within a whisker of hitting Earth. Called 2012 DA14, it actually sailed about 5,000 miles closer to Earth than our communications satellites (which orbit at 22,000 miles). If the asteroid had arrived just a few minutes earlier, it might have hit Earth, with truly cataclysmic consequences.
To see what might have happened in the case of a collision with DA14, one can study the 1908 Tunguska impact, which hit Siberia with the force of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs, giving Earth a black eye. That meteorite was about the same size as DA14, i.e., the size of an apartment building. The energy of the impact was so great that it devastated 830 square miles of Siberia, including 80 million trees. Pictures of the area show millions of trees lying on their sides, as if a giant hand came down and flattened every tree in sight. The impact was so spectacular that the blast was heard hundreds of miles away, and strange lights were seen as far away as Europe.
The meteor that caused at least 1,000 injuries in Russia after a startling and powerful daytime explosion one week ago has been identified as a chondrite. Russian scientists who analyzed fragments of the meteor, whose large size and well-documented impact made it a rarity, say that its composition makes it the most common type of meteor we encounter here on Earth.
“The fragments contain a standard number of minerals, including olivine, pyroxene, troilite and kamacite,” scientist Viktor Grokhovsky of the Urals Federal University, told the Voice of Russia. “These minerals that can be discovered only in outer space confirm the fragments’ extraterrestrial nature.”
That means that before it shattered windows in the city of Chelyabinsk and turned people around the world into gawkers fascinated by a calamity — and by the amazing video footage of it — the meteor spent billions of years traveling through space.
When it detonated over Russia, the explosion was powerful enough to be “detected by 17 nuclear monitoring stations around the globe,” as The Christian Science Monitor reports.
The meteor, which may have weighed as much as 10,000 tons and measured about 55 feet across, was traveling at an estimated 11 miles per second when it reached Earth, according to a report at io9.
The meteor that crashed to earth in Russia was about 55 feet in diameter, weighed around 10,000 tons and was made from a stony material, scientists said, making it the largest such object to hit the Earth in more than a century.
Large pieces of the meteor have yet to be found. However, a team from the Urals Federal University, which is based in Yekaterinburg, collected 53 fragments, the largest of which was 7 millimeters, according to Viktor Grokhovsky, a scientist at the university.
Data from a global network of sensors indicated that the disintegration of the Russia fireball unleashed nearly 500 kilotons of energy, more than 30 times the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
It is the largest reported meteor since the one that hit Tunguska, Siberia, in 1908, according to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The agency’s new gauge of the meteor’s size was a marked increase from its initial estimate.
“We would expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years,” said Paul Chodas of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office, in a statement. “When you have a fireball of this size we would expect a large number of meteorites to reach the surface and in this case there were probably some large ones.”
When a meteor lands, researchers can get a better fix about its size and composition by studying isotopes found in the fragments. But the pieces need to be found quickly because the isotopes last for only days or weeks.
A meteor lit up the skies over the Bay Area in California in what experts say is debris from Halley’s Comet.
Hundreds of residents from Oakland, San Francisco and Santa Cruz called ABC News station KGO-TV, reporting a loud boom, explosions and streaks of light around 7:45 p.m. local time Wednesday.
NASA.com reported that the 2012 Orionid meteor shower is set to peak Saturday night into Sunday morning.
“Earth is passing through a stream of debris from Halley’s Comet, the source of the Orionids,” Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office said in the NASA.com report.
Excited residents took to Twitter and YouTube to post photos and videos of the streaking comet.
Callers to the Antenne Thüringen radio station described three glowing dots with a long tail which spread into several parts across the sky.
“It was great, very impressive,” said one caller. Another woman told the radio station, “We saw the light spectacle on the way home from church. Our daughter thought it looked like Santa’s sleigh with reindeer.”
Some said it looked like a red glowing star with a smoking tail, while others spoke of an intense white glowing tail.
The Leonid meteor shower of 2010 is peaking this week and the best time to see the sky show is now.
The annual Leonids should be at their best through Nov. 18, according to skywatching experts. Avid meteor gazers graced with clear skies may see between 15 and 20 meteors per hour.
Skywatchers should look toward the constellation Leo in the eastern sky to see “shooting stars” from the Leonids, which appear to radiate out of the constellation. The best time to try to see the Leonids are in the last two or three hours before sunrise, when the moon has set.
A Leonids sky map posted here shows where to look in the predawn sky.