The American Meteor Society received many reports of a fireball in Arizona, along with bordering states. (Photo: Phoenix City)
People across Arizona have reported seeing fireballs in the sky in recent weeks, but this is not uncommon for early spring, according to NASA and the American Meteor Society.
There have been four confirmed reports of fireballs in Arizona since February 16, AMS spokesman Mike Hanley said Thursday.
“It’s strange,” said Hanley. He said there is no real explanation for these events.
The cameras of the city of Phoenix in downtown Phoenix captured this meteorite on February 26, 2020.
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Hanley also confirmed that another fireball was seen around 8:15 p.m. Wednesday. He said it was probably an asteroid.
Fireball is another name for a very bright meteorite. Comets and asteroids orbit around the sun, and a meteorite is created when a small piece of a comet or an asteroid burns when it enters Earth’s atmosphere. This causes the ray of light seen in the sky, according to the NASA website.
Comets are made of ice, while asteroids are made of rock and travel at lower speeds, Hanley said.
On February 16, there were reports of “mysterious booms” of Yavapai County residents. They were probably also caused by a meteorite. AMS received multiple reports of fireball sightings that day, according to its website.
“There is an increase in the amount of fireball reports in early spring for some reason,” said NASA Meteoroid Environment Program manager William Cooke.
He said there is no real explanation as to why there are more occurrences during these months, but it happens every year.
Some say it may be because there are more “big things” in the earth’s orbit, while others say meteorites are always there, Cooke explained. More people are outside during these months, so they see them.
Both Cooke and Hanley said these fireballs are not related to any meteor showers.
Cooke said the fireballs are due to sporadic background. He said that if people are outside and the sky is completely dark, they can see five to six meteors per hour, even without a meteor shower.
This week, however, meteor showers are more visible due to the position of the moon. The moon reached its new phase on Sunday and is now invisible at night, making it the best time of the month to see meteor activity, according to the AMS website.
He said the fireball on Wednesday morning was a comet from the Jupiter family. Wednesday night’s fireball was a fragment of an asteroid traveling at 36,000 mph. He does not believe that any meteorites have fallen as a result of any of the events.
Cooke said this happens across the country, not just in Arizona. However, in Arizona, the wide range of deserts makes it easier for people to find meteorites that fell to the ground.
Arizonans can expect to see fireballs throughout April, but they do not pose a threat to the community.
Alyssa Stoney, the breaking news reporter, can be contacted at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @stoney_alyssa
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