Fireball 10 times brighter than full moon seen over Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, NASA says

A strong boom preceded a ridged fireball spotted 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 booms in and around Claiborne County, Mississippi, reported NASA. It was first spotted 87 miles above the Mississippi River near Alcorn, Mississippi, officials said.

“This is one of the nicest events I’ve seen in GLM (Geostationary Lightning Mappers) data,” said Bill Cooke, manager of NASA’s Office of Meteoroid Environments at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, in Alabama.

The object, which scientists called a bolide, moved southwest at a speed of 55,000 miles per hour (88,500 kilometers per hour), breaking into pieces as it descended deeper into the earth’s atmosphere. It disintegrated about 34 miles (55 kilometers) above a swampy area north of the unincorporated community of Concordia Parish in Menorca, Louisiana.

A witness told the Vicksburg Post that she heard a loud noise, then looked up and saw an “orange ball of fire the size of a basketball, with a white tail behind it”, heading towards the 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 Generating Station was not involved.

“Citizens of County Claiborne, local officials are aware of the loud noise that was heard throughout the county,” the message read. “Grand Gulf Nuclear Generating Station was not involved in this event and the site is secure. … There is no threat to the county and no action needs to be taken.”

The fireball’s fragmentation generated enough energy to create shock waves that traveled to the ground, producing the booms and vibrations felt by area residents, 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 reports we had given, the sky was so clear,” Cooke said. “More people have heard it than seen it.”

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