A bright ball of light traveling east to west was seen over the skies of central/northern California Sunday morning, April 22. The former space rock-turned-flaming-meteor entered Earth's atmosphere around 8 a.m. PDT. Reports of the fireball have come in from as far north as Sacramento, Calif. and as far east as North Las Vegas, Nev.
Bill Cooke of the Meteoroid Environments Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., estimates the object was about the size of a minivan, weighed in at around 154,300 pounds (70 metric tons) and at the time of disintegration released energy equivalent to a 5-kiloton explosion.
"Most meteors you see in the night's sky are the size of tiny stones or even grains of sand and their trail lasts all of a second or two," said Don Yeomans of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Fireballs you can see relatively easily in the daytime and are many times that size -- anywhere from a baseball-sized object to something as big as a minivan."
Elizabeth Silber of the Meteor Group at the Western University of Canada, Ontario, estimates the location of its explosion in the upper atmosphere above California's Central Valley.
Eyewitnesses of this fireball join a relatively exclusive club. "An event of this size might happen about once a year," said Yeomans. "But most of them occur over the ocean or an uninhabited area, so getting to see one is something special."
- Category: Science & Technology