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Hundreds Witness A Fireball Whooshing Across Central US

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The American Meteor Society has received more than 270 reports of a fireball streaking across the sky on July 8.

AMS estimated the fireball to have a shallow entry angle. This would mean the fireball may have simply grazed on Earth at a close yet safe distance. Many witnesses, however, said the fireball disintegrated at some point. If the latter was true, this would mean that the fireball has actually entered the Earth's atmosphere without being detected prior to its landing.

Streaks Of Fireball In Central US

Based on submitted reports, AMS estimated the fireball's pathway from north of Des Moines, running southeast just across the river into Illinois. Most of those who have seen the fireball were people located in Iowa and Illinois. The fireball was also seen in Minnesota, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. There was one report that came from as far as Cleveland and few others from Minneapolis to St. Louis.

While the fireball on July 8 has got revelers excited, AMS said such celestial event is very common in space. A fireball can graze over any planet in an average interval of 20 hours.

What Exactly Is A Fireball

AMS defines fireball as an extremely bright meteor, as bright as Venus when it appears as the morning or evening star.

NASA defines a meteoroid as a small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the sun. A meteorite, on the other hand, is a meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth's atmosphere and lands on its surface. A meteor, meanwhile, is the light seen when a meteoroid enters the Earth's surface.

Steven Spangler, an astronomer from the University of Iowa, said the fireball was a meteor about the same size of a baseball. It is more appropriate to call it as a fireball because it burns much brighter than the average meteors.

Spangler assured the fireball did not cause significant damage. It may have shattered into tinier pieces and may, in fact, did not land on Earth after all. He also explained that there is no scientific reason why the fireball passed through the reported pathway, specifically in Iowa, other than pure coincidence.

"[I]t's just, they're random shooters and they're just gonna hit here sooner or later. I think these meteors are moving all over the Earth ... they hit all over the place, it was just our (Iowa) number was up," he said.

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