The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

May 17, 2014

Meteor group says fireball reported in state

CHARLESTON — A meteor brighter than Venus has been reported in the sky over parts of West Virginia and several other states.

The American Meteor Society’s website lists 94 reported sightings of a fireball Thursday night, including eight in West Virginia between 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. The fireball also was reported in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

The West Virginia sightings were in Charleston, Huntington, Twilight, Ghent, Peytona, and Wayside, according to the website.

Joe Merchant, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said 911 centers in Boone, Raleigh, Logan and Kanawha counties received hundreds of calls reporting a bright light in the sky and explosions.

“Kanawha 911 said it looked like fireworks going off on their radar, it appeared that close to them, so it must have been pretty bright,” he told the Charleston Gazette.

Merchant said the sound reported by observers was a sonic boom that probably resulted from the meteor breaking up before it hit the ground.

Fireballs are meteors that generally are brighter than Venus, and “the brighter the fireball, the rarer the event,” a posting on the American Meteor Society’s website states. Fireballs that generate sonic booms are rare.

Every day, several thousand fireballs enter the Earth’s atmosphere. But the vast majority of the events occur are over oceans and uninhabited regions. Daylight masks many of them, and there are relatively low numbers of people out at night to detect them, according to the website.

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