A meteor soared over Texas on Saturday night, at about 8:45 p.m. This meteor was a fireball, a very powerful meteor that burns even brighter than Venus. The American Meteor Society (AMS) reported the meteor this week.
When the meteor strode over Texas this weekend, over 200 observers in the area called the AMS to report a very bright green light. Dr. Bill Cooke, a scientist working at NASA, estimated that at its brightest, the meteor was a magnitude of >-14, meaning that the meteor was five times brighter than the moon.
"This event was so bright that it was picked up on a NASA meteor camera in the mountains of New Mexico over 500 miles away, which makes it extremely unusual. This was a very bright event," Cooke said.
The fireball was likely only 4 feet wide. According to estimates, Cooke said that he believed the meteor weighed roughly 4,000 pounds. The fireball created as much light as it did because it was moving extremely fast, possibly up to 20 miles per second.
Some observers took video of the fireball. One watcher taped the fireball from a car's window. You can see the spectacular footage of the meteor here.
Fireballs can be seen from a height of 60 miles, which means that viewers on the ground can see them from far away, which is likely one of the reasons why there were so many witnesses to this heavenly spectacle on Saturday night. It also helped that this fireball struck before 9 p.m., when many people were still up and about. Cooke said that thousands of fireballs hit the Earth every day, but the majority of them are not observed because they fall over the ocean, or over parts of the Earth that are not inhabited. Even when they do fall over a city, they need to fall during the night to be properly seen, and if they fall at, say, 3 a.m., when most people are asleep, fewer people are obviously likely to see them.
Cooke said that researchers will study weather radar data to determine whether any pieces of this meteor found their way to Earth during the meteor's trip.
This meteor may be from the North Taurid meteor shower, or part of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Cooke said.
"We're going to have to wait until we get more data to discriminate between the two of them," Cooke said.