On Sunday night, a fireball streaked across the sky in Colorado that was so bright, residents in Wyoming and New Mexico saw it. It lit up the night sky a bright blue before disappearing.
According to the American Meteor Society, the fireball was a meteor that fell to Earth somewhere between 25,000 and 160,000 miles per hour, although the exact speed has not been determined. NASA stated that meteors usually break apart while going through Earth’s atmosphere. There are probably meteor fragments scattered somewhere in Colorado.
This fireball comes less than a week after residents in North Carolina reported their own near Raleigh. According to the American Meteor Society, they received reports of the fireball across Maryland, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia as well.
While the American Meteor Society receives reports nearly every day, they’re still pretty rare to catch on camera, as a lot of them happen during daylight. So keep those eyes peeled at night.
Fireball Flies Over Texas
In Texas in July, residents caught a similar experience on camera. Just like with the recent meteor, it was so bright it was seen across 5 states. Though not as blue as the Colorado fireball, it is still a sight to behold. Some residents even reported a sonic boom accompanying the meteor.
According to the American Meteor Society, they receive 20,000 reports of fireballs annually. Sometimes, these fireball reports aren’t fireballs at all, but the sun reflecting off of contrails, short for condensation trails.
Caught on the dash cam on the way home from dinner on 635 in Irving. pic.twitter.com/2Rrwiaf7WF— Angela W (@misoranomegami) July 26, 2021
The AMS provides a handy checklist for anyone looking to report meteorological phenomena: first, did it last more than 30 seconds? Fireballs rarely last very long, while contrails last significantly longer. Second, were there clouds present above the fireball? If yes, it wasn’t a fireball. They burn up and glow as soon as they hit the atmosphere, and clouds rest significantly lower in the sky. Third, did it easily impress? If so, the AMS claims it’s fireball time. Fireballs look like huge shooting stars, while contrails, while still beautiful, are static lines in the sky. Also, fireballs tend to glow blue, while contrails are more yellow and orange.
Contrails are basically artificial clouds produced by water vapor and exhaust gases from jet engines mixed with the incredible cold of the upper troposphere. The sun then reflects off of these trails and creates brilliant flaming clouds.
While contrails are pretty to look at, they are not so safe for the environment. According to AMS, because contrail traps and retain heat, they are one of the causes of global warming.