A loud bang foreshadowed a fireball in three southern states, scientists confirmed Thursday. More than 30 people in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi reported seeing the unusually bright meteor in the sky around 8 a.m. Wednesday after hearing loud bangs in Claiborne County, Mississippi and surrounding areas, NASA reported.
It was first seen 54 miles above the Mississippi River near Alcorn, Mississippi, officials said.
“This is one of the nicest events I’ve ever seen in GLM (Geostationary Lightning Mappers) data,” said Bill Cooke, leader of NASA’s Meteoroid Environments Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency posted a satellite image on Facebook along with confirmation from NASA. The agency said the fireball caused no injuries or property damage and ran parallel to the Mississippi River.
The object, which the scientists called a bolide, moved southwest at a speed of 55,000 miles per hour, breaking into pieces as it descended deeper into Earth’s atmosphere. It disintegrated about 34 miles above a marshy area north of the unincorporated community of Concordia Parish of Minorca, Louisiana.
A witness told the Vicksburg Post he heard a loud noise and then looked up and saw an “orange fireball the size of a basketball, with a white tail behind it”, heading west towards the Mississippi River.
The Claiborne County Emergency Management Agency posted a statement on Facebook confirming the reports and noting that the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station was not involved.
“Caliborne County citizens, local officials are aware of the loud sound that was heard throughout the county,” the post read. “The Grand Gulf Nuclear Station was not involved in this incident and the location is safe… There is no threat to the county and no action should be taken.”
The fireball’s fragmentation generated enough energy to create shock waves that spread through the ground, producing the rumbles and vibrations felt by people in the area, NASA said.
At its peak, the fireball was more than 10 times brighter than a full moon, NASA said.
“What struck me as unusual was how few eyewitness accounts we’ve given to the skies were so clear,” Cooke said. “More people heard it than saw it.”
Fireballs are glowing meteors rated brighter than the planet Venus, according to the American Meteor Society, a non-profit organization that tracks meteors.