Marjorie Owens WFAA.com Fri, 07 Dec 2012 11:08 CST
From McKinney to the White Rock Lake area and all the way south to Houston, a bright flash reported in the sky Friday morning captured the attention of many across the Lone Star State. One McKinney woman reported seeing what appeared to be a comet streaking across the sky in a bright flash around 6:42 a.m. near Stonebridge Shopping Center.
Justin Wagoner, who lives in the White Rock Lake area, said he saw a green trail and heard a large "sonic boom" around the same time. Others reported seeing white and orange colors. The sight only lasted a few seconds before vanishing in the sky.
According to Dr. James Roberts, a University of North Texas astronomer who talked to WBAP, the mysterious object in the sky was likely a burned up meteor. A KHOU meteorologist in Houston said it may have been part of the Geminids meteor shower, which takes place in December. The meteorites often appear to be slow moving and are usually best seen at its peak on December 13 and 14.
Mike Hankey, the operations manager with the American Meteor Society, said the meteor was most likely a fireball meteor, which is a meteor brighter than the norm. Hankey described a fireball as any meteor brighter than Venus.
A KHOU viewer shared this surveillance video that shows what could be the flash from the meteor that was sighted across the Texas sky around 6:40 a.m. Friday. The video was taken in Bellaire, TX:
"For those not familiar with meteors and fireballs, a fireball is a meteor that is larger than normal. Most meteors are only the size of small pebbles," read a report on the American Meteor Society's online site. "A meteor the size of a softball can produce light equivalent to the full moon for a short instant. The reason for this is the extreme velocity at which these objects strike the atmosphere."
"While fireballs are actually pretty common across the globe, they happen every night, to actually see one in your area is very rare," Hankey said. "If you see one once in your life, you are very lucky."
The loud boom heard by some could be explained by what happens when a large fireball breaks apart, Hankey went on to explain.
"Really big fireballs that break apart and cause a sonic boom are called 'bolides," Hankey said. "Bolides usually drop meteorites to the ground. It is still not known if this was a bolide or just a fireball."
Hankey also said the meteor was likely not associated with the Geminids as they are usually dimmer and move at a faster pace. However, he said the organization is looking further into the case to determine the exact type of meteor that was sighted.
The organization is comprised of amateur and professional astronomers focused focused specifically on meteor astronomy.
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