A noontime boom that was heard and felt from southern Ontario to Virginia was likely caused by a disintegrating meteor, according to an organization in western New York that keeps track of such phenomena. Witnesses across the area reported hearing the boom or seeing a fireball in the sky shortly after noon on Wednesday, said Robert Lunsford of the American Meteor Society in Geneseo.
By early Thursday, the organization had recorded more than 150 reports of the fireball seen in seven states. The group said the fireball was mainly seen in New York and Ontario but it also received reports from Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Lunsford told CBS affiliate WTVH that he estimated that the fireball could have been the size of a small car, moving at least 10 miles (16 kilometres) per second. When it disintegrated 22 miles (35 kilometres) above the surface in western New York, it produced a bright light. A camera on the CN Tower in Toronto captured a huge flash of light across the skyline.
A massive #fireball lit up the sky over parts of the United States and Canada earlier today. Check out this footage that was caught from our #EarthCam‘s in Toronto. Could it be a meteor?? 👀☄️ @TourCNTower pic.twitter.com/Qxdz168p0I— EarthCam (@EarthCam) December 2, 2020
Police agencies and fire departments around central New York received 911 calls reporting a boom that shook windows, but clouds prevented sightings in much of the area. Since most reports of the boom were around Syracuse, that’s likely where the meteor blew to bits, Lunsford said.
NASA’s track of the event computed shows that the fireball ended its visible flight somewhere over Cayuga Lake, New York, the American Meteor Society said.
On the society’s website, an observer in western New York reported the fireball was bright white with shades of yellow. An observer in Hagerstown, Maryland reported a fireball with red and orange sparks, smoke and a persistent train. A report from Welland, Ontario, described a long, bright green train.
“Sunny day so it looked like a gold metallic flash against the blue sky,” said a report from Winchester, Virginia.
“Astonishing, amazing, still get goosebumps talking about it,” wrote an observer in Port Dover, Ontario. “The train was flaming white, wide and long, no smoke.”
“We tend to notice fireballs more at night because they stand out better, but it’s not terribly unusual for very bright ones to be noticed during the day. It happens several times a year over populated areas,” said Margaret Campbell-Brown, a member of the Meteor Physics Group at Western University in London, Ontario.
All fireballs, which are bright meteors, produce sound waves, sometimes detectable only by sensitive microphones, Campbell-Brown said by email. A large one may produce a thunderlike sonic boom with possible extra bangs from fragmentation, she said.
The fireball comes just days after a brightly burning meteor was seen plunging from the sky in wide areas of Japan, capturing attention on television and social media.