Published February 15, 2011
Multiple reports of a fireball in the sky seem to confirm a passing meteor near the North Jersey-New York City area, reports Fox 29.
The incident happened before 12:45 p.m. ET, according to eyewitnesses who reported seeing an object that resembled a meteor near the Philadelphia Navy Yard facility, according witnesses who called Fox 29. Reports of the incident also surfaced on Twitter and Facebook.
The American Meteor Society contacted Fox 29 and said they had about 20 reports from spotters during that time period. Most meteor sightings are at nighttime so the spate of reports during the day was unusual.
The likeliest explanation is a large meteor – a space rock hurtling through the atmosphere – passed eastward over the North Jersey-New York City area.
“It might have been 5 feet in diameter with a weight of more than 5 metric tons, judging from reports that it blazed as bright as a full moon,” NASA scientist Bill Cooke of the Marshall Space Flight Center told Philly.com.
Fox 29 TV reporter Chris O’Connell also saw the object, which he described as “majestic” and beautiful,” but with an estimated speed of 33,500 m.p.h., it’s fortunate the fireball didn’t hit anything.
“My crude estimate of the energy of this fireball is about 100 tons of TNT, which means it was capable of producing a crater 125 feet in diameter and about 15 feet deep, assuming an impact into sandstone,” Cooke said.
Such meteors are a regular occurrence but this most recent intruder was far larger than the typical shooting star passing through our atmosphere. At night, even a grain of sand can cause a bright streak across the sky.