A huge fireball streaked across the sky over parts of New England Tuesday morning, and a Portland, Maine police officer’s dashcam caught the meteor in all its glory.
As The Portland (Maine) Press Herald reports, Sgt. Tim Farris was on duty at about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, watching for speeders, when he caught the magnificent streak of light sail across the sky.
The Portland Police Department then posted the video of the fireball to the Department’s Facebook page, where it quickly went viral.
“You never know what you are going to see on duty. Sgt. Farris was looking for speeders while parked in front of the central fire station and was able to observe some visitors “from away”….far away. The meteor (or alien spaceship) was caught on camera at approximately 0050 hours. Let’s hope the visitors are friendly. They could just be some of Stephen King’s friends on their way to visit him. Whom ever they are I’m sure we could win them over with a whoopie pie.”
As it turns out, the meteor was seen outside of Maine, too. In fact, according to the American Meteor Society, so many people checked the organization’s website following the meteor that crashed.
— Bill D (@zeusFanHouse) May 17, 2016
“The fireball was seen primarily from Maine but witnesses from Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Ontario (Canada) and Quebec (Canada) also reported the event.”
When talking about lights streaking across the sky, it’s important to get the terms right. Officially, a bit of space rock hurtling through the Earth’s atmosphere is called a meteor; when debris from the meteor hits the ground, those bits of debris are referred to as meteorites. The word “fireball” is an unscientific term that simply refers to the streak of light caused by the meteor as it burns up in the upper atmosphere.
Tens of thousands of meteors streak across the Earth’s atmosphere every day. However, since the Earth is 72 percent water, the odds of one being seen from a populated area are low. And even then, half of them, mathematically, will occur during daylight hours, and the light they emit will be drowned out by the Sun.
Which is why seeing a super-bright fireball streaking across the sky is a rare treat.
Rarer still are the meteors that make it as far as the ground. The vast majority of space debris is burned up by friction against the atmosphere, and the space rocks are vaporized. However, on rare occasions, bits of meteorites will fall to the ground – and lucky is the person who finds one.
— Richard White (@RtWhiteSpace) August 21, 2015
According to WMUR (Manchester, New Hampshire), the Tuesday meteorite was accompanied by a sonic boom. That means that the space rock likely made it far enough into the atmosphere to produce chunks of meteorite that fell to the ground, there for the taking for any fortunate treasure hunters who may find one.
In fact, the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum in Bethel is offering a generous reward – $20,000 – for the first person to bring in a one-kilogram (or larger) chunk of the Tuesday meteorite, according to WMTW (Poland Spring, Maine). Museum director Barbra Barrett said that any meteorite would be put on display in the museum forever.
“This is an exciting opportunity, and we need the public’s help.”
One kilogram is about 2.2 pounds, and depending on the meteorites’ chemical composition, a chunk the size of a baseball could easily exceed that.
Did you see the New England fireball Tuesday morning?
[Image via Facebook]