Saturday 21 October 2017

Fireball over Long Island, New York.

The American Meteor Society has received reports of a bright fireball meteor being seen over Long Island, New York, at about 3.00 pm, Eastern Daylight Time (about 7.00 pm GMT), on Wednesday 18 October 2017. The majority of the sightings came from New York and New Jersey, though reports have come from Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland and New Hampshire as well. A fireball is defined as a meteor (shooting star) brighter than the planet Venus. These are typically caused by pieces of rock burning up in the atmosphere, but can be the result of man-made space-junk burning up on re-entry.

The 18 October 2017 fireball meteor seen from Connecticut. News 12 Connecticut.

The meteor was seen to move from northwest to southeast, entering the atmosphere over Connecticut or Long Island and terminating over the Atlantic Ocean (such meteors typically terminate many kilometres above the Earth's surface in an explosion caused by friction with the Earth's atmosphere). 

The estimated trajectory of the 18 October 2017 fireball meteor. American Meteor Society.

Objects of this size probably enter the Earth's atmosphere several times a year, though unless they do so over populated areas they are unlikely to be noticed. They are officially described as fireballs if they produce a light brighter than the planet Venus. It is possible, though unlikely, that this object will have produced meteorites that reached the surface (an object visible in the sky is a meteor, a rock that falls from the sky and can be physically held and examined is a meteorite), though most meteorites come from larger objects that penetrate further into the atmosphere before exploding, and therefore have a better chance of producing fragments that reach the surface.

Witness reports can help astronomers to understand these events. If you witnessed this fireball you can report it to the American Meteor Society here.  

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