Sunday, August 19, 2018

Fireball '40 Times as Bright as Full Moon' Lights Up Alabama Sky

A meteor lit up the Alabama sky on Aug. 17. (NASA)

NASA has released video of "a very bright" fireball that lit up the sky over Alabama just after midnight Friday morning. The official time of sighting was 12:19 a.m. CDT. The fireball was described as "at least 40 times as bright as the Full Moon." It was first seen 58 miles above Turkeytown, Ala. northeast of Gadsden, according to NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center.

The fireball was moving northwest at 53,700 miles per hour and fragmented about 18 miles above the small town of Grove Oak, NASA said.

"Early results indicate the (meteor) was caused by a small asteroid 6 feet in diameter," NASA said. "We are still assessing the probability of the fireball producing meteorites on the ground."

"Whether it did or not," NASA said, "it was an extremely bright event seen through partly cloudy skies and triggering every camera and sensor operated by the Meteroid Environment Office in the region."

Breonna Cole, public information officer for the Gadsden Etowah EMA, was one of the many witnesses who saw it. She says she was in Coates Bend in Etowah County close to Turkeytown, facing northeast toward DeKalb County when she saw it.

"The sky started lighting up, so I thought that it was lightning. We did have a few rumbles of thunder earlier that afternoon," Cole said. "So I looked up and when the sky continued to lighten, I saw a fireball, if you will."

Cole knew it wasn't lightning because lightning flashes don't last that long.

"People think it's not common because you don't actually see it. But it's actually more common than most people realize," Cole said. "So if you got to catch a glimpse of it, that's pretty cool. But it's nothing to be alarmed about. It's pretty normal."

The National Weather Service says the fireball or boom was witnessed as far west as Birmingham. Facebook user Barry Pender caught video of it with his doorbell cam in West Georgia.


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