Loud boom heard, bright streak seen across the region late Tuesday

Sierra Vista - A number of southeastern Arizona residents reported seeing a bright meteor in the night sky Tuesday, followed by a loud explosion-like sound as it fell to Earth.

At his home off of Highway 191, about seven miles south of Interstate 10, Wayne Crane said he saw the shooting star just as it lit up the sky shortly before 9:30 p.m.

"I was facing probably southwest, and I just happened to look up, and I saw a glowing object," Crane said. The object appeared very bright and very large, "like a moon against the sky."

The meteor was visible only briefly, said Crane, who is the public relations manager for Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative.

"It was only there for about a second and a half before it was gone. Almost, in fact, before I had realized what I had seen," Crane said.

In Sierra Vista, several people report seeing and hearing the same object as it entered the atmosphere.

"The sky lit up and looked like fireworks or something," said Cody Bastian. "It lasted maybe three seconds, and then shortly after I saw it, we heard a big crash or boom."

Bastian and friend Amanda LaValley were walking along Calle Portal when they saw the meteor.

"It looked blue to me," LaValley said. "It seemed to be sparkling."

Said Bastian, "It looked like it fell somewhere toward Huachuca City."

Their friend Carol Captain also saw the meteor from her driveway off of Lenzner Avenue.

"I thought it was a shooting star or something like that," Captain said. "It looked white and very bright, but then, after it fell, there was a large boom. It looked like it fell somewhere between Fort Huachuca or Whetstone."

Hereford resident Gini Hoffmeyer said she heard the noise from her home.

"I was sitting here about 9:20 p.m., and there was just this loud boom, and all the windows rattled and shook," Hoffmeyer said. As she didn't witness the meteor herself, Hoffmeyer said she was initially unsure what could have caused such a noise. "I looked outside to make sure nobody's house had blown up," she said.

Neal Galt, writer of the Backyard Astronomer column for the Herald/Review, said that the likelihood of any remains of the meteor reaching the planet's surface depends on various factors, including the composition of the object.

"You can have things that are light and stony, and they break up very easily," Galt said, "and then you have things made of iron, and those seem to stay together." The velocity of the object also plays a part, he said.

The exceptional brightness of the meteor would classify it in astronomy circles as a "bolide," he said. Typically, meteors such as the one that passed over southeastern Arizona Tuesday night are visible no farther than 100 miles away, he said.

Dr. Jack Schrader, a Sierra Vista dentist who has hunted for meteorites for 15 years, is eager to search for possible fragments from Tuesday's event. "When you have a sonic boom, then there is a very good indication that there are pieces that have reached the Earth's surface," Schrader said.

He said he has received calls from fellow meteorite hunters in places like Prescott who plan to visit this area soon to hunt for fragments.

Schrader said a meteorite often looks like a charcoal briquette. It is not always shiny. The blackness is attributed to a fusion crust that forms during meteor's fiery descent through the Earth's atmosphere.

A meteorite can range from the size of a pea to a football. They are often cold after falling out of the sky and sometimes warm. They are not radioactive and are safe to handle, Schrader said.

"It's super exciting," the dentist said, noting he has been waiting for a long time for something like this to happen in this area. If anyone has information, call Schrader at 458-2419.