Residents from several states in the U.S. spotted a bright fireball streaking across the sky. Based on the description of the fiery object, it seems an asteroid hit Earth and caused a mid-air explosion. The International Meteor Organization (IMO) confirmed that the incident took place on Feb. 18. The IMO made the confirmation after receiving multiple reports from eyewitnesses.
Eyewitness Reports of Fireball Incident
On the day of the incident, the IMO received around 40 eyewitness reports from residents of North Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia. Many of them noted that although the fireball was very bright, it only lasted for a couple of seconds. One eyewitness, Shawn H. from Elkview, West Virginia, said the fireball changed colors as it got closer to the ground.
"It was big and bright white and turn a greenish color as it neared the horizon," he stated in his report. "It had a long tail behind it and disappeared before making contact with the ground. It lasted maybe 2-3 seconds, not sure but seemed like it was longer."
Estimating The Size Of The Fireball
Meteorological agencies have not yet released their reports regarding their investigations on the fireball event, but a few eyewitnesses provided valuable information regarding the characteristics of the object. Katie F. from Whitsett, North Carolina, estimated that she was able to spot the fireball without using special equipment.
Based on what she saw, she estimated that the object was about as big as a beach ball. She said that she did not notice any fragmentation from the fireball. Another eyewitness noted that the object had a diameter of about 5 millimeters. From his perspective, the distance traveled by the object was about a foot long.
Explaining Fireball Events
Based on the eyewitness reports, the bright object was most likely caused by a small asteroid that collided with Earth. As it entered the planet's atmosphere, it became a meteor. Due to the friction from the atmosphere, the meteor turned into a fireball and caused a bright explosion in the sky. According to the IMO, fireball events are usually caused by meteors that are over a millimeter wide.
"As the size of these objects approach a millimeter, they begin to produce enough light to be seen upon entry to the upper atmosphere as ordinary meteors," the IMO explained. "Due to the velocity at which they strike the Earth's atmosphere, fragments larger than 1 millimeter have the capability to produce a bright flash as they streak through the heavens above."