Happen to catch that strange fireball ranging across the sky shortly before 10 p.m. on Saturday night? You weren’t the only one.
According to the American Meteor Society, there have been 751 reports of the event so far, primarily from Western Washington, but spreading as far south as Eugene, Oregon, as far north as Enderby, British Columbia and as far east as western Idaho. Newsflare.com posted video of the fireball, which occurred at at 9:54 p.m.
Just one person from Whatcom County reported seeing the event to the AMS – a source identified as “CoryA” from northeast of Bellingham near East Axton Road. According to the report, CoryA said, “I wish I hadn’t blinked! Saw it, blinked, gone.”
Most people reported a bit longer show, though, and that is what has researchers looking into if this sighting was actually a space rock slamming into the Earth’s atmosphere or something else. The fireball moved a lot slower than most meteors, hanging in the sky for about 13 seconds.
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“Right now I can’t say with 100 percent certainty that it was a meteor,” Mike Hankey, operations manager for the AMS, told inverse.com in a story about the event. “I’m more like 95 percent certain.”
Hankey told inverse.com that the fireball was caused by either a meteor entering the Earth’s atmosphere at a very low angle, allowing it to cross through a lot of air before it disintegrated or bounced back out into space, or it wasn’t a meteor at all. Space trash, such as satellites, rocket boosters and other items left by humans, can cause longer lasting fireballs, but Hankey said space trash is tracked for re-entry, and nothing was expected on Saturday.
Obviously, that uncertainty has opened the door for some more ... we’ll call them “eccentric” ideas on what the fireball may have been, inverse.com reported, but the AMS says that the fireball terminated in a mountainous area just northeast of Pilchuck on Highway 9.
If you missed Saturday’s event, don’t worry. We’re currently in the middle of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, which lasts from July 17 through Aug. 24.
Space.com offered some tips for viewing the shower. Hopefully the smoke from the British Columbian fires will clear out by Aug. 12 – the expected peak of the meteor shower.