Fireball Lights Up Arizona Sky
Reports have been pouring in to NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, as an extremely bright fireball lit the pre-dawn sky over much of Arizona.
Eyewitness reports placed the object above the Tonto National Forest east of the town of Payson, moving almost due south.
Based on the latest data, the small asteroid was estimated at 5 feet in diameter, with a mass of a few tons and a kinetic energy of approximately half a kiloton entering Earth’s atmosphere at an estimated 40,200 miles per hour.
Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office said “There are no reports of any damage or injuries—just a lot of light and few sonic booms. If Doppler radar is any indication, there are almost certainly meteorites scattered on the ground north of Tucson.”
Since many of the cameras were almost completely saturated by the bright event, blinding all-sky meteor cameras as far away as western New Mexico, Cooke notes that he and other meteor experts are having difficulty obtaining data on the fireball though numerous videos have been uploaded to YouTube of the smoke trails left behind.
NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office is responsible for finding, tracking, and characterizing near-Earth asteroids, identifying potentially hazardous objects, and planning for the mitigation of potential impacts to Earth that could do damage at ground level. More than 14,000 near-Earth asteroids have been discovered since NASA-sponsored efforts began in 1998 to detect, track and catalogue asteroids and comets.