A monster fireball brighter than the full moon not only lit up central Arizona’s skies early this morning but exploded with such force, it shook the ground! Amateur astronomer Chris Schur reported that the meteor glowed at around magnitude -16, more than twice as bright as the full moon.
Searing the sky high over the canyons and deserts of the Southwest, the meteor appeared at about 3:57 a.m. local time (5:57 a.m. CDT). While most of humanity slept asleep, enough souls were up or woken up by the display that more than 200 sightings had been reported to the American Meteor Society’s Fireball Event website by noon today. Observers from Colorado to California witnessed the spectacle, with the greatest number of sightings clustered in the central Arizona and Phoenix area.
“There was a bright flash and the ground shook from the explosion,” according to an e-mail communication with Schur. “We were able to get images soon after of the smoke train from this object. The news media went crazy this morning, and the police departments all over the state were overloaded!”
Watch for the bright flash from the fireball at right taken at 3:56 a.m. by an all-sky camera. Thomas Ashcraft video.
No one knows at this point whether it was a satellite re-entry or a meteoroid from the asteroid belt, though the latter is likely based on descriptions. Satellite debris usually comes down slowly; this fireball was swift. I’m still waiting for more security and dashcam videos to be posted, but in the one above, you can at least see the brilliant flash. Technically, an exploding fireball is called a ‘bolide’, an awesome term that sounds more explody than ‘meteor.’
The morning fireball caught on a surveillance camera
The fact that many heard an explosion is a good indicator that the meteor may have made it through most of the atmosphere and possibly dropped meteorites on the ground. If so, Arizona’s a great place for this to happen. Not only is the state home to numerous professional and amateur meteorite hunters, the climate is ideal to preserve what fell for a long, long time. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if hunters were already on the ground looking for tell-tale black, fusion-crusted rocks from the fall.
NASA Meteor Cam Video of June 2, 2016 Arizona Fireball
As soon as I hear more or get a hold of better video or imagery, I’ll post it here.