A fireball meteor zoomed across the sky near West Palm Beach, Florida on Monday night. Local news teams and even some home security systems were able to catch footage of the sparkling space rock.
The meteor was spotted at about 10 p.m. EDT, when it fell from the sky and disintegrated in a sudden flash of light, according to NPR.
Soon after, Jay O’Brien, a reporter for CBS News in West Palm Beach, tweeted a video of the fireball exploding in the air. His colleague, Zach Covey, a meteorologist for CBS, said that the fireball was likely a “chunk of an asteroid known as 2021 GW4,” a space rock that was due to pass by Earth that night.
The asteroid was estimated to be about 14 feet (4 meters) across. It passed Earth about 16,300 miles (26,200 kilometers) away. The asteroid will now make a two-year loop around the sun. It will eventually swing back around to Earth, but NASA predicts that it won’t come nearly as close as it did this week for at least another century.
Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, disagreed with Covey’s theory. “It’s a normal fireball and nothing to do with GW4,” he said in a tweet.
Fireballs usually include any meteor that shines at least as brightly as the planet Venus in the sky. In fact, fireballs actually fall to Earth every day, but most go unnoticed. They usually fall over uninhabited areas, during the day or under cloud cover.
Wherever the meteor came from, the National Weather Service Tampa Bay managed to snap a picture of the fireball burning up off the Florida coast.
The bright flash was picked up by the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), a satellite-borne instrument that monitors changes in brightness to keep track of lightning events.