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Pieces of fireball over New England may have impacted Earth

Union Leader Correspondent

December 27. 2017 6:24PM
An image of the fireball that crossed the sky Tuesday night was captured by the Portsmouth Harbor webcam. (COURTESY)

The bright fireball that lit up the night sky over parts of New Hampshire and the Northeast early Tuesday evening was a rare sight that potentially impacted Earth, according to some of the more than 200 reports from witnesses.

“We did have two reports of a delayed sound after the event, which is usually a good sign something survived,” said Mike Hankey, operations manager for the American Meteor Society (AMS).

The delayed sound associated with fireballs is like a thunder or boom sound and is the result of a sonic boom or air dust caused by the fireball as it penetrates the lower atmosphere, Hankey said.

Two witnesses — one from Raymond, Maine, and the other from Burke, Vt. — reported it “shaking the ground.”

The fireball, which is a meteor that’s brighter than normal, was seen streaking across the sky around 5:52 p.m.

The AMS received as many as 230 reports of the fireball from residents in New Hampshire and other New England states. It was also seen in Canada, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.

Hankey said the event lasted approximately four to five seconds and had a peak brightness of -14 magnitude, which is slightly brighter than the full moon.

According to the International Meteor Organization, fireballs brighter than a full moon are very rare.

It’s not known whether any pieces of the fireball landed, but there were signs that some of it could have survived the trip, according to Hankey.

Fremont resident Dorine Caswell said she and her 14-year-old daughter, Carly, were driving on Route 107 in Fremont when she saw the fireball appear to drop from the sky behind some trees. She believes some of it may have landed nearby. She said she and her daughter caught the fireball out of the corner of their eyes as it came down.

“We honestly thought a shooting star landing or fireworks. It was a greenish color. … We both just watched it come down through the trees. We know it landed,” she said.

Many others across New Hampshire also saw the fireball and reported what they witnessed to the AMS.

“It reminded me of a Roman candle except flying downward rather than being shot up into the air. I was driving and it just appeared out of what seemed like nowhere. It was very beautiful,” reported a woman from Derry.

On average, Hankey said, meteorites from one or two fireballs are found each year, but none have been reported so far this year.

Meteorites from three different fireballs were found last year in the United States, Hankey said.

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