Island residents are being urged by Maria Mitchell Association director of astronomy Vladimir Strelnitski to keep their eyes open for meteorites around Surfside and the south shore in the coming days following an unconfirmed sighting of a fireball blazing across the early-morning sky Friday, Feb. 20 at 4:30 a.m.

Terry Galschneider was up early watching television when she said a dramatic orange fireball "lit up the sky" for five seconds. She said the fireball was too large and bright to have been a shooting star or a helicopter. Her full description to Strelnitski left him to "not exclude that it fell in the ocean, but maybe even on land."

The object's brightness suggests it would be relatively close to Galschneider, although its lack of sound made that even less possible to tell for certain. He said it was highly unlikely to have been debris from colliding satellites.

The sighting was not confirmed by either Nantucket airport officials or by the police, and no other reports of fiery objects in the sky Friday in Massachusetts have been made to NASA, or to astronomy departments at Boston University, the University Massachusetts at Lowell, or the American Meteor Society.

Other islanders who may have spotted the fireball are encouraged to contact Strelnitski at the Maria Mitchell Association at (508) 228-5273.

Though unlikely, Strelnitski said discovering a meteorite - or part of one - on Nantucket would be unprecedented and could yield important information to scientists. People around Surfside especially are encouraged to look for unusual small craters with valleys on the surface with strange objects inside.

Meteors can be a piece of metal, a greenish or grayish piece of stone, or a black piece of organic matter that resembles coal called carbonatious condrite, the rarest of all meteorites.