KEY POINTS

  • A fireball event was spotted over Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina
  • An asteroid most likely collided with Earth and caused an airburst explosion
  • Meteors that are over a millimeter wide can cause fireball events

A bright fireball event was recorded over multiple states in the U.S. and was spotted by several eyewitnesses. Based on the reports, it seems an asteroid hit Earth and caused a bright explosion in the sky.

According to the International Meteor Organization (IMO), the cosmic event took place on the early morning of Feb. 18. Eyewitnesses described seeing a bright fireball streaking across the sky.

On the day of the incident, the IMO received around 40 eyewitness reports from residents of North Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia. Many of them noted that although the fireball was very bright, it only lasted for a couple of seconds. One eyewitness, Shawn H. from Elkview, from West Virginia, said the fireball changed color as it got closer to the ground.

“It was big and bright white and turn a greenish color as it neared the horizon,” he stated in his report. “It had a long tail behind it and disappeared before making contact with the ground. It lasted maybe 2-3 seconds, not sure but seemed like it was longer.”

Meteorological agencies have not yet released their reports regarding their investigations on the fireball event, but a few eyewitnesses provided valuable information regarding the characteristics of the object. Katie F. from Whitsett, from North Carolina, shared that she was able to spot the fireball without using special equipment.

Based on what she saw, she estimated that the object was about as big as a beach ball. She said that she did not notice any fragmentation from the fireball. Another eyewitness noted that the object had a diameter of about 5 millimeters. From his perspective, the distance traveled by the object was about a foot long.

Based on the eyewitness reports, the bright object was most likely caused by a small asteroid that collided with Earth. As it entered the planet’s atmosphere, it became a meteor. Due to the friction from the atmosphere, the meteor turned into a fireball and caused a bright explosion in the sky.

According to the IMO, fireball events are usually caused by meteors that are over a millimeter wide.

“As the size of these objects approach a millimeter, they begin to produce enough light to be seen upon entry to the upper atmosphere as ordinary meteors,” the IMO explained. “Due to the velocity at which they strike the Earth’s atmosphere, fragments larger than 1 millimeter have the capability to produce a bright flash as they streak through the heavens above.”