Fireball Outshines Moon as Meteor Wows Southern US (Video)

Thursday, 05 Sep 2013 08:43 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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A meteor described as a fireball lit up the sky over the southern United States last week, outshining the moon by more than 20 times, NASA said.

The fireball streaked  in the predawn hours of Aug. 28, putting on a brief but spectacular show for night owls and stargazers in several southeastern states, reported If a meteor blazes more brightly than Venus in the sky, it's classified as a fireball.

NASA's All-sky Fireball Network cameras spotted the asteroid at 3:27 a.m. EST Aug. 28 as it blazed across the sky.

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"Recorded by all six NASA cameras in the Southeast, this fireball was one of the brightest observed by the network in five years of operations," Bill Cooke, head of the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., wrote in a blog post Tuesday. "From Chickamauga, Ga., the meteor was 20 times brighter than the full moon; shadows were cast on the ground as far south as Cartersville."

Early reports estimated that the fireball was traveling around 56,000 mph and was probably about 2 feet wide, weighing more than 100 pounds.

"NASA cameras lost track of the fireball pieces at an altitude of 21 miles, by which time they had slowed to a speed of 19,400 mph," Cooke wrote. "Sensors on the ground recorded sound waves ('sonic booms') from this event, and there are indications on Doppler weather radar of a rain of small meteoritic particles falling to the ground east of Cleveland, Tenn."

Meteors appear when space particles burn up in the Earth's atmosphere, according to NASA categorizes a meteor as a fireball if it burns more brightly than Venus in the sky.

The space agency's All-sky Fireball Network comprises 12 cameras — six in the Southeast spread throughout Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, and two each in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico.

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