A Strange Green Fireball
A strange green fireball was discovered hours before it crashed into Lake Ontario in the middle of the night.
In the early hours of November 19, a rogue meteor flared in Earth’s atmosphere, creating a bright green fireball in the sky over the eastern United States and Canada.
A bright green fireball streaked through the sky over the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada at half past 3 a.m. (EST) on Nov. 19. Witnesses said they saw a helicopter-like object cruising silently through the air before lighting up vast swaths of the night like a massive lightning bolt. It was gone in about 10 seconds.
This fireball was a small meteor that astronomers detected just three hours before it tumbled through Earth’s atmosphere, caught fire, and disintegrated into hundreds of pieces. According to NASA, the majority of those pieces likely smacked straight into Lake Ontario, though some small chunks may have impacted land on the lake’s southern shore.
The meteor was observed by seven observatories around the world as it made its early morning death dive, and at least 59 people in New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the neighboring province of Ontario, Canada reported seeing the fireball on the International Meteor Organization’s meteor-watching database.
Dereck Bowen of Brantford, Ontario (about 60 miles or 97 kilometers west of New York) managed to capture the fireball’s descent with a GoPro camera set to automatically record the sky at night. A stunning 30-second exposure of the sky captures the moment the meteor soared overhead, with the rock’s bright green trail plummeting toward Earth and lighting up the clouds around it.
Another camera set up outside Toronto’s 1,815-foot-tall (553-meter) CN Tower captured the meteor’s bright passage across the sky.
According to NASA, fireballs are extremely bright meteors that typically originate from asteroids or fragments of comets that orbit the sun.
The Nov. 19 fireball, now officially known as 2022 WJ1, was most likely a small asteroid no larger than 3.2 feet (1 m) in diameter. When space rocks like these enter Earth’s atmosphere, the intense friction causes them to heat up and slow down, leaving a visible wake of fiery light behind them. Depending on its composition, a meteor may also glow green as it falls to its doom.
Fireballs are generally thought to be harmless because the majority of their fragments burn up in the atmosphere before impacting Earth. There may be a few rare exceptions. On November 5, a man in California claimed that a fireball had set fire to his house after it had appeared in the sky moments before. The cause of the fire is still being investigated by experts from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
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