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East Texans report fireball, loud noise from sky

Published: Jul. 25, 2021 at 10:41 PM CDT
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EAST TEXAS (KLTV/KTRE) - Reports of a possible meteor have flooded into the East Texas News newsroom Sunday night.

The reports came after 9 p.m. from as far south as the Lufkin area and as far north as Mount Vernon.

Some reports indicated a loud noise along with the fireball. Several videos and photos showed a round, bright light heading toward the Earth.

Dr. Beau Hartweg director of the TJC Earth and Space Science Center said the fireball is possibly a chunk of an asteroid, weighing around ten pounds.

The American Meteor Society reported the fireball traveled in a northeasterly direction, lasting about four seconds.

NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office said the event was not part of the Perseid meteor shower, which happens each summer.

Computer generated projected path of the meteorite based on data from the American Meteor...
Computer generated projected path of the meteorite based on data from the American Meteor Society. (KLTV)

“Objects causing fireballs are usually not large enough to survive passage through the Earth’s atmosphere intact, although fragments, or meteorites, are sometimes recovered on the ground,” according to NASA.

More than 100 people submitted sightings or reports to the American Meteor Society.
More than 100 people submitted sightings or reports to the American Meteor Society.(KLTV)

According to a Facebook post by NASA Meteor Watch, the meteor was first seen 48 miles above Texas Highway 11, between Sulphur Springs and Winnsboro. Moving northeast at 30,000 miles per hour, it traveled 59 miles through the upper atmosphere before fragmenting 27 miles above U.S. 82, east of Avery. The post noted that the fireball was “at least as bright as a quarter moon, which translates to something bigger than 6 inches in diameter with a weight of 10 pounds. The slow speed (for a meteor) suggests a small piece of an asteroid produced the fireball.”

Robert Lunsford with the American Meteor Society said what was seen Sunday night was a fireball, which is another term for a very bright meteor. He said that generally means the meteor is brighter than Venus in the morning or evening sky.

Lunsford said this type of meteor usually becomes visible at an altitude of about 50 miles, and they typically burn up by the time they get as low as 25 to 20 miles above the Earth’s surface.

The meteor from Sunday night was probably traveling at a speed of 8 to 9 miles per second, Lunsford said. While that may seem fast, it’s slow when you take into account that most meteors are moving at 50 miles per second.

Lunsford said the fact that some people heard a boom indicates to the American Meteor Society that the meteor made it into the lower atmosphere. He added that may also indicate that some small fragments may have reached the ground.

This was likely just a random event, Lunsford said. It was not part of a meteor shower, which is more likely early in the morning hours like 1 or 2 a.m.

This projection is based on data from the American Meteor Society.
This projection is based on data from the American Meteor Society. (KLTV)

Do you have videos or photos from the sighting? You can submit them here.

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