Arizona Asteroid: Fireball Lights Up Sky, Turns Night Into Day

A fireball that flew over the U.S. Southwest and turned the pre-dawn skies in Arizona as bright as day has been identified by NASA as an asteroid. The asteroid that resulted in the spectacular Arizona fireball is estimated to have been about 10 feet in diameter, and the June 2 fireball was the brightest recorded in 8 years, according to reports.

At first, witnesses to the breathtaking Arizona asteroid event thought that the fireball was a run-of-the-mill meteorite, but NASA ultimately determined that not to be the case, reports CNet.

Check out some of the incredible footage of the Arizona asteroid streaking across and lighting up the early morning sky.

Nobody who witnessed the Arizona asteroid event reported any damage or injuries from the memorable sight; just a really loud sonic boom and a massive amount of unexpected light.

The difference between a meteorite and an asteroid comes down to nothing more than size. Most meteorites are the size of maybe a basketball or a fist. Asteroids are much larger; as such, when they streak through the sky, the show they put on is much more spectacular.

According to NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office representative Bill Cooke, it’s believed that the asteroid broke up in the skies north of Tuscon, Arizona, and rock hounds can expect small meteorite fragments to be scattered around the ground in the area.

“There are no reports of any damage or injuries — just a lot of light and few sonic booms.”

NASA also released some video of its own depicting the decent of the Arizona asteroid. In the NASA video, you can see the asteroid growing from a pinpoint-sized dot of light visible from an observatory to engulfing the viewing area in bright, white light.

According to NASA, the earth is pummeled by asteroids every single day, usually repeatedly. However, the Arizona asteroid was unique in both its brightness and how widely it was recorded. It was caught on home surveillance cameras, news traffic cameras and observatory cameras, among other recording devices.

As you can see in the image below, the Arizona asteroid, — which was visible across several Western states including New Mexico, California and Arizona — literally turned the pre-dawn darkness brighter than a sunny day, albeit for a split second.

The Arizona asteroid officially lit up the western skies at just before 4 a.m. local time on Thursday.

Now that NASA and other astronomy professionals have determined just where they believe the space rock broke up, the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University is on the hunt for pieces of the asteroid. The center boasts “the world’s largest university meteorite collection,” and it’s hoping to make that collection at least one specimen larger with a fragment of Thursday’s Arizona asteroid.

As Arizona Central reports, the center’s curator hopes that the center will end up with a “winning lottery ticket” from the Arizona asteroid.

The center is hopeful that whoever finds pieces of the asteroid that astonished Arizona locals early on Thursday morning, it will have the opportunity to study and analyze those pieces.

While Arizona is well known for being home to a famous asteroid crater, pieces from only three asteroids have been recovered in Arizona, according to rep from the center.

“Yesterday the lottery has been drawn and now they (explorers for the fallen pieces) are going to go out and see who won.”

Unfortunately for the hopeful researchers from the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University, they won’t be the only ones interested in recovering and researching fragments of the Arizona asteroid. Amateurs and professionals the world over are descending on the area in hopes of getting their hands on one of the rare, valuable and historic Arizona asteroid fragments.

[Image by Shutterstock]