Fireball spotted as asteroid fragment plunges to Earth

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Fireball spotted as asteroid fragment plunges to Earth

Dozens of witnesses in three states reported hearing a thunderous boom before seeing a gleaming fireball streaking across the sky on Wednesday, NASA scientists confirmed.

Over 30 people in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi reported seeing the brilliant space rock burning through the atmosphere after hearing loud booms just after 8 a.m. local time Wednesday morning, according to NASA.

NASA said the object — which scientists called a “bolide” —  is believed to be part of an asteroid about a foot in diameter, weighing in at about 90 pounds.

“This is one of the nicer events I have seen in the GLM data,” said Bill Cooke, lead of NASA’s Meteoroid Environments Office in Huntsville, Alabama.

The space rock plunged through Earth’s atmosphere at 55,000 miles per hour before it disintegrated about 34 miles above a swamp near Minorca, Louisiana, NASA said.

The fireball generated an energent equivalent of three tons of TNT, causing the boom and vibrations reported by witnesses.

At its peak, the fireball was more than 10 times brighter than a full moon, NASA said.

A map of where the fireball was seen.
NASA said the object is believed to be part of an asteroid about a foot in diameter, weighing in at about 90 pounds.
NASA/American Meteor Society

“What struck me as unusual was how few eyewitness reports we had given the skies were so clear,” said Cooke. “More people heard it than saw it.”

One witness told the Vicksburg Post that she heard a loud noise before seeing an “orange fireball the size of a basketball, with a white tail behind it” in the sky as it sped west towards the Mississippi River.

The boom prompted the Claiborne County Emergency Management Agency in rural Mississippi near the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station to issue a statement to residents to tell them the nuclear plant was not involved.

A map of where the asteroid crossed the US.
The space rock plunged through Earth’s atmosphere at 55,000 miles per hour before it disintegrated about 34 miles above a swamp near Minorca, Louisiana.
NOAA

“Grand Gulf Nuclear Station was not involved in this occurrence and the site is secure,” the agency said. “Local and state officials are investigating and confirming the information that is received. There is no threat to the county and no action is to be taken.”

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