KEY POINTS

  • Most of the reports of the fireball came from New York and Connecticut
  • The fireball traveled from East to West and visibility ended in Poughkeepsie: AMS
  • Thousands of fireball events happen in the atmosphere every day but not all are seen

People on the East Coast witnessed a bright light streaking through the sky Sunday night. Over 500 reports of the event from 12 states have been recorded so far.

The bright light was spotted over the East Coast skies at about 7:22 p.m. EST, the American Meteor Society (AMS) said in a news release. Notification of the event flooded the organization, which quickly logged over 280 reports from New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Delaware, New Jersey, Vermont and other states.

As of Nov. 11, there are 518 reports related to the sighting.

Many were quick to share footage of the event, showing a bright flash of light that suddenly appears in the sky followed by what appears to be a trail of dust behind it. After several seconds, the bright flash dwindles and disappears from sight.

According to the AMS, the trajectory of the event based on the reports they received suggests that it traveled from East to West, with the visibility ending in Poughkeepsie, New York.

It's possible, the AMS said, that what people saw was a fireball. "Fireball" is the term used for meteors that are brighter than Venus in the sky. This is different from a bolide, which is the light from a meteoroid that explodes in the atmosphere.

As the organization explained in its news release, "several thousand meteors of fireball magnitude" actually happen in the Earth's atmosphere every day. However, not all of them are reported because many of them either happen during the day or over uninhabited regions. And even the ones that happen at night are not always observed because there are fewer people out to see it than during the day.

Brighter fireballs are rare, the organization explained.

"As a general thumb rule, there are only about 1/3 as many fireballs present for each successively brighter magnitude class, following an exponential decrease," the AMS said. 

The AMS receives reports of fireballs every day but some tend to be more reported than others. While some major fireball events garner just about 30 reports, others garner hundreds. The latter is the case for Sunday's fireball event and the Sept. 30 fireball event that has so far logged a total of 874 reports.