September 5, 2013
Fireball Outshines Moon Across Southeastern Skies

A giant fireball outshone the moon across skies in the American southeast last week, all thanks to an asteroid that was two feet wide and about 100 pounds.

The meteor lit up the predawn skies on August 28, putting on a show for anyone lucky enough to be awake at the early hour.

Bill Cooke, head of the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said the fireball that outshone the moon was actually captured on NASA cameras.

"Recorded by all six NASA cameras in the Southeast, this fireball was one of the brightest observed by the network in 5 years of operations," Cooke wrote on his blog. "From Chickamauga, Georgia, the meteor was 20 times brighter than the full moon; shadows were cast on the ground as far south as Cartersville."

Now the fireball that outshines the moon is an internet hit as well. The video of the event has been a hit online and the meteor itself became a trending search term.

Cooke said the asteroid that lit up the skies was only about two feet wide when it hit Earth's atmosphere near the border of Georgia and Tennessee on August 28. It was traveling northeast at 56,000 miles per hour, and started to break apart as it came closer to the Earth.

"NASA cameras lost track of the fireball pieces at an altitude of 21 miles, by which time they had slowed to a speed of 19,400 mph," Cooke wrote. "Sensors on the ground recorded sound waves ('sonic booms') from this event, and there are indications on Doppler weather radar of a rain of small meteoritic particles falling to the ground east of Cleveland, Tennessee."

The fireball that outshines the moon was not the only cosmic show in the skies last week. The Aurigid meteor shower made a rare appearance, giving people watching in darker, rural areas the chance to see close to five meteors per hour.