KEY POINTS

  • A fireball streaked through the night sky in Florida on Monday evening
  • Footage of the event shows it brightening the evening sky
  • Some think the fireball was from an asteroid that passed close to Earth

People in Florida witnessed a bright fireball streaking through the sky Monday night. Was it a regular fireball or an asteroid that had passed close to Earth?

Many people in Florida saw a fireball brighten the sky at about 10 p.m. EDT on Monday. The dark skies were lit up by the bright flash, which was caught by dashcams and security cameras, NPR reported.

One of the videos of the event shows the view from what looks like a backyard. A few seconds into the video, the light streaked across the sky and brightened in a sudden flash before disappearing.

In another video, posted by CBS News reporter Jay O'Brien on Twitter, the bright object seems to explode, quickly brightening the sky and then disappearing just as suddenly as it appeared.

Even the GOES-16 Geostationary satellite appears to have captured the event, which can be seen in an image shared by National Weather Service (NWS) Tampa Bay. It shows the bright light passing close to Florida.

"Did you happen to see a meteor this evening?" NWS Tampa Bay tweeted. "We've gotten a few reports about one that could be seen from #SWFL!"

The American Meteor Society (AMS) has received more than 250 reports of the fireball, dubbed Event 2281-2021. Most of the reports were from Florida but some also came from central Georgia and the Bahamas.

So what was the object that hundreds of people saw in the sky? There's a bit of confusion as to what exactly it was. This was because around the same time as the fireball appeared, asteroid 2021 GW4 was also set to make a close encounter with the Earth. So some believe the fireball was seen as a result of the asteroid coming close to the planet than expected, NPR reported.

However, Jonathan McDowell of the Center for Astrophysics commented that what people saw was likely unrelated to the passing asteroid and was likely a "normal fireball."

Fireballs in general are meteors that are "brighter than normal." They often come in the -5 to -10 magnitude range, the former being equivalent to the brightness of the planet Venus, the International Meteor Organization (IMO) explained.

Such fireballs can happen every day and in any part of the Earth, but they are often left unnoticed because they happen either during the day or over remote locations. Those who witness fireballs should report it to the IMO, with details including the accurate date and time it was observed, its color and if it made any sound or not.

"If you have seen one of these rare events, please take the time to share your sighting with our global community," IMO said. "It does not matter if it occurred last night or in years past, information on your event is valuable!"

fireball Fireballs – meteors that appear brighter than the planet Venus – like the one seen here over the desert of Central Australia are common and can be spotted all over the world. Photo: Creative Commons