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What Was the 'Fireball' Seen in the Southwest Sky Last Night?


"...the size of a basketball or baseball that likely disintegrated before it hit the ground."

What was that? Michael Kahnke (@mlkahnke) wrote "It was large, slow-moving and parts were breaking off."

"That" occurred last night around 7 p.m. Pacific Time, when reports started filling in from Arizona, Nevada and California of a bright light -- mostly green and blue -- the size of a VW bug (via Gizmodo). CNN has more:

Lt. Justin Griffin of the Maricopa Sheriff Department in Arizona was trying to guess what the strange light was.

"Believe it was a meteorite traveling from north to south across Maricopa County," Griffin said. "The 911 call center received a flood of calls."

Griffin said there were no reports of impact or damage.

"People are, indeed, reporting they saw a light head from west to east across the sky. We got reports from CHP and the FAA about callers seeing the light. It is reasonable to say that it may be a meteor," Curt Kaplan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service told CNN affiliate KCAL.

See what the Southwest saw in this amateur video that seems to have been taken at a local football game:

And here's another:

"We can't say 100 percent," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program, "but it's almost certain that the object was a fireball" or very bright meteor "the size of a basketball or baseball that likely disintegrated before it hit the ground."

The bluish-green color suggests the object had some magnesium or nickel in it, Yeomans said. Orange is usually an indication it's entering Earth's atmosphere at several miles per second, a moderate rate of speed.

Yeomans said fireball events are much more rare than shooting stars, but they happen on a weekly basis somewhere on Earth, usually over the ocean.

The phenomenon even sparked a separate hashtag on Twitter -- "#fireball:"


Here are some viewer comments from the Los Angeles CBS affiliate:

Francesa D: “I live in Chino it looked like a falling star at first and continued on forever with a reddish green tail behind it before it was too low to see anymore. “

Terr: “I am in south Ontario. My daughter and I were in the driveway as we saw the fiery yellow and orange falling. We thought maybe it was a firework of some sort. But wasn’t. It was very bright and pretty big in size. We lost sight of it behind trees.”

Gerardo H.: “My friend in Vegas said a green thing landed on the next block over and the military has it blocked off.

Some speculate it could have been the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, which NASA reported is soon expected to fall back to Earth. But real time satellite tracking shows that it is likely still in orbit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

[H/T Gizmodo]

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