Right off the bat, let's say we don't know yet if a meteor actually streaked across the East Coast sky on Friday evening. (Americans just don't have as many dashboard cams as Russians, it seems.) But we're watching a social media event explode in real time. Hopefully that's all that exploded.
Donald Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program in Pasadena, Calif., said he's aware of the reports and that they appear to be consistent with a meteor shower.
Yeomans told The Associated Press that he didn't know the cause of the Friday night sightings. He said meteor showers are not that rare, but added "it's unusual to have so many people see it."
A meteor bright enough to be classified as a fireball lit up the night sky over eastern North America on Friday, providing a spectacle witnessed in at least 13 states, Washington, D.C. and two Canadian provinces, the American Meteor Society said.
The society verified more than 300 witness sightings from Ontario and Quebec down to the southern U.S. state of North Carolina with more than 100 reports yet to be reviewed, said Mike Hankey, an observer for the American Meteor Society.
"This was most certainly a fireball seen over a good portion of the eastern states," said Robert Lunsford, the society's fireball coordinator.**...The society describes a fireball as a meteor brighter than Venus and Lunsford said they can be brighter than the Sun, as was the case with the one that streaked across the sky and exploded over Russia on February 15.
** Fast Company note: There's such a thing as a "fireball coordinator"?
Fast Company's Tyler Gray (TG) and Anjali Mullany (AM) watched it unfold live.
AM: Claims of meteor sightings rolled in on Twitter:
Wait, was that just a #meteor flying over Manhattan?! Twitter, confirm!— Scott Bixby (@ScottBix) March 23, 2013
Holy crap just saw a huuuuge green meteor burn up over DC. Craziest thing I've ever seen. Anyone else see that?— Brenton Laverty (@brentlaverty) March 22, 2013
Hey, I just saw that #meteor too, out the window, headed northeast. Like a remnant of a firework burst, only bigger. And quieter.— David Gallagher (@davidfg) March 23, 2013
Lance and I just saw a wonderful meteor fall over Newark.It broke up twice as it passed our field of vision.#skywatch— Alan Coffey (@arcoffey) March 23, 2013
This is a pretty cool map of meteor reports, over on the American Meteor Society website.
TG: And then the early YouTube result (which now appears to be fake, likely taken from two years ago):
Another CCTV clip of what looks like, maybe, the kind of shooting star folks see all the time outside of the city (Russians have dashboard cams, we have office park and self-storage mall CCTVs):
Oh. Wait. No, here's some dashboard cam footage (second clip in, after the rad triangle wipe effect).
AM: Of course, it wouldn't be a social media event without fake photos:
Or jokes, including this humdinger from one of tonight's most prominent pranksters:
All the #meteor sightings these days really strikes that off the old APRIL FOOLS joke list— John (@magaman) March 23, 2013
Also, FYI—a shooting star is a meteor, people:
wait so now I'm seeing that the shooting star we saw was a meteor?! #saywhat— pdnothsa (@pdnothsa) March 23, 2013
[Image: Flickr user kevincole]