WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Did you see it? Fireball lights up Carolina skies

Posted November 10, 2021 11:13 p.m. EST
Updated November 11, 2021 5:51 p.m. EST

— As many stepped outside Wednesday night to catch a glimpse of four astronauts heading to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, they got another surprise. A meteor briefly streaking across the skies above Martin, Edgecombe and Nash counties.

Did you see it? Submit pics, video here

Based on more than 200 reports to the American Meteor Society and NASA cameras located in western North Carolina, it was seen for just 3.5 seconds, beginning about 48 miles above a point northeast of Greenville and moving northwest at about 33,000 mph.

trajectory of meteor over eastern NC on Nov 10

Based on those reports, especially the brightness of the object, it was estimated to be about the size of a football and weigh about 40 to 45 pounds before it disintegrated about 28 miles above a point southeast of Rocky Mount.

"If you've never seen that before, it's really an event, and you're wondering, 'What in the world was that?'" WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

The trajectory also suggests it was a part of the Taurid meteor shower, which peaks this week. It was likely a chunk of the half-mile-wide Asteroid 2004 TG10, which passes through this part of the solar system every 3.3 years. The asteroid may itself be a chunk of Comet 2P Encke.

In videos, the object brightens significantly, appearing to break up near the horizon. Scientists refer to objects this bright, using the planet Venus as a comparison, as bolides or fireballs. If the space rock survived the fall, which is very unlikely, the pieces that made it to the ground are known as meteorites.

Nighttime Sky Over My House

"Thousands of fireballs cross the sky every day, but they're over the ocean or they happen during the day or people just aren't out watching them," Gardner said. "So, it was just an unusual occurrence that people were out to see the rocket launch and they happened to see the fireball."

Anyone who saw the fireball can report what they saw to the American Meteor Society. Crowd-sourced reports are used to estimate a trajectory.

SpaceX launch 11/10/21

WRAL anchor/reporter Ken Smith contributed to this report.

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.