WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Daytime fireball spotted over eastern NC

Posted September 9, 2016 9:47 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 3:01 p.m. EDT

Pedro Martinez captured the fireball in dashcam video along 1-95.

— On Thursday around 6:03 p.m., hundreds saw a rare fireball in the skies nearly 50 miles over eastern North Carolina.

Observer reports to the American Meteor Society of the fireball, likely from a meteoroid entering the atmosphere over Virginia at speeds greater than 25,000 mph, were centered near Medoc Mountain State Park between Roanoke Rapids and Rocky Mount. Most saw the streak across the sky for only about 3.5 seconds.

The same bit of rock can have many labels depending on how it behaves as it falls through the atmosphere and whether it survives.

In order of increasing rarity:

  • Meteoroids are the small bits of rock originating from a comet or asteroid ranging in size from a grain of sand to a meter in diameter.
  • Meteors are the streak of bright light emitted as a meteoroid enters the atmosphere.
  • Meteors brighter than the planet Venus are called fireballs.
  • A bolide is the bright flash of light from a meteoroid exploding in the atmosphere.
  • Most space rocks burn up in the atmosphere, but when a rare fragment makes it to the ground, this object is called a meteorite.

The meteor over Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013 produced a bolide along with a shockwave that damaged thousands of buildings, injuring nearly 1,500. Thursday's event is best described as a fireball because it was visible during daylight hours, nearly 90 minutes before sunset, and observer reports don't indicate a mid-air explosion.

Heat map

This fireball streaking across the Carolina skies was a rare sight but not a rare event. Every day, about 100 tons of dust and rock enters Earth's atmosphere.

If you captured an image of the fireball, share it with WRAL. Mike Maze might select it as his amazing pic of the day.