It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Superman. Nope, it's actually a meteor, and a pretty bright one at that.
Last week, astronomers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center recorded a bright, man-sized meteor entering the atmosphere approximately 66 miles above the city of Macon, Ga, traveling at 24 miles per second. The team said the meteor was the brightest they had seen in the flight center's approximately three years of operation.
The meteor was tracked by dual sky cameras, one in Chickamauga, Ga., and the other at the Tellus Science Museum in the town of Cartersville, Ga. According to data analysis from these cameras, the meteor first entered the atmosphere over Macon and burned up 38 miles above the town of Villa Rica, located on the border between Carrol and Douglas counties in Georgia.
The researchers say the atmosphere provided protection to the Earth, because the air both slows the meteor down and compresses in front of it, creating enough heat to burn it up. In the videos, it is easy to spot fragments coming apart as the meteor streaks through the sky. Without an atmosphere, the rock would come smashing into the Earth with the same energy, at its maximum speed, of between 500 and 1,000 tons of TNT.
Take a look at the videos.
Video Credit: NASA