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This Rare Meteor Got Super Close to Earth Before Disintegrating

The earthgrazer fireball flying in the sky

Stargazers near Alabama and Georgia were recently treated to a spectacular light show as a rare meteor zipped across the night sky. The meteor entered our atmosphere at a shallow angle, and some of its fireballs even “bounced” off of it and back into space.

The big show began on November 9 at 6:39 p.m. ET. Despite it being partly overcast in that region, the meteor was so bright that many astronomy enthusiasts—including members of the American Meteor Society—could still see it pretty clearly. The experience was further detailed on the NASA Meteor Watch Facebook page, which noted that it was detected by three meteor cameras in the area which tracked its orbit and trajectory.

The first folks to see the fireballs in action were those in Taylorsville, Georgia. There, viewers were treated to a quick glimpse of the meteor moving by at a whopping 38,500 miles per hour just 55 miles above Earth.

Map of where the earthgrazing meteor was visible and traveling to in the night sky

In fact, NASA calls this type of meteor an earthgrazer meteor, “in which the meteor’s trajectory is so shallow it just skims across the upper atmosphere for a long distance—very rarely, they even ‘bounce off’ the atmosphere and head back out into space.” NASA also noted that this wasn’t the case for this particular meteor, as it ended up disintegrating.

Scientists attempted to track the meteor in real-time, as is common practice with any meteor, but its lengthy travel distance prevented it. The NASA Meteor Watch Facebook page said “its path was so long that our automated software could not handle all the data.”

The team went through the data manually the following morning and ran a secondary analysis code and made a crazy discovery. The meteor traveled an awe-inspiring 186 miles in the air—more than double the original 91 miles they estimated it would cover. While it isn’t the longest ever, it was still quite rare and undoubtedly a treat for those who were able to view it.

via Gizmodo

Suzanne Humphries Suzanne Humphries
Suzanne Humphries was a Commerce Editor for Review Geek. She has over seven years of experience across multiple publications researching and testing products, as well as writing and editing news, reviews, and how-to articles covering software, hardware, entertainment, networking, electronics, gaming, apps, security, finance, and small business. Read Full Bio »