Fireballs Streak Through U.S. Skies Monday

The term “fireball” is a catch-all for objects that are brighter than Venus as they move across the sky. The first of the three flew over Arkansas on Monday morning, the second over Chicago in the early evening while the last appeared over the West Virginia.

Fireballs streak: The Red Bull “Meteor”

Not surprisingly, the man-man occurrence was staged above Chicago which has considerably more people to observe it. In a video making its rounds of the Internet, shows a diver jump from a plane in a wingsuit before releasing an impressive stream of sparks behind him. The other two sightings are believed to have been meteors.

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The West Virginia meteor was reported to be visible as far north as Pennsylvania, people down south as far as Georgia also claimed to have seen it. Bill Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteorite Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center, was unable to explain the Chicago incident (it was Red Bull, not a meteor) but confirmed the West Virginia sighting as a space rock that was “probably the size of a softball or baseball.”

Fireballs streak: Taurid Meteors

Skywatchers are likely to see Taurid meteors this weekend as the northern Taurid shower began on Halloween this year. The meteors are so named as they appear to originate from the Taurus constellation. The West Virginia meteor traveled west to east, so consequently it was not a Taurid meteor. The Arkansas meteor traveled east to west and likely was a Taurid meteor.

“People see fireballs all over the Earth, every night of the year,” Cooke added. “This is not unusual for this time of the year.” Though he quickly pointed out that two meteors in the same night is a rare occurrence.

Cooke also pointed out while there should be more meteors this week, next year’s Taurid shower should be even more prevalent.

“If our forecasts are accurate,” Cooke said, “Next year around Halloween, we can expect even more fireballs.”