Meteor Lights Up Florida Night Sky As It Explodes Into Giant Fireball

Every now and then, there will be a rare astronomical event that makes the night sky a little more dazzling.

And whether we're talking about a Super Pink Moon or planets passing by each other, we usually have a decent period of warning that gives us time to check it out.

But of course, nature is often much less predictable than these events would suggest and some of the most amazing things that light up the night sky happen without warning.

And it's hard to find a more dramatic example of these sudden phenomena than the fireball that recently dazzled Florida residents.

At about 10:20 pm on April 12, people throughout Florida suddenly saw a dazzling fireball emerge in the night sky.

According to The Weather Network, this was the result of an "extremely close encounter' with a meteor that was swept up by the Earth's atmosphere.

As USA Today reported, it's suspected to be a piece of the GW4 asteroid that came within 12,430 miles of the planet's surface. For comparison's sake, similar satellites that manage to orbit Earth typically do so about 22,000 miles above the surface.

By the following afternoon, about 230 witnesses reported the meteor to the American Meteor Society, which helped them figure out that it was travelling from south to north over the Atlantic Ocean.

Reddit | eskho, PureCiasad

While many of these reports unsurprisingly came throughout the Florida peninsula, The Weather Network reported that it could be seen as far away as the Bahamas and central Georgia.

Meteors like the one spotted over Florida are leftover pieces from the formation of the solar system that travel through space at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour.

According to The Weather Network, when they enter the earth's atmosphere, they slow down as they encounter air molecules, which they compress together as they go. If enough of that compression happens, the air around them glows.

So when we see a massive fireball in the sky as in this clip by CBS12 reporter Jay O'Brien, that means the meteor at the center of it was both fairly large and fast.

When it's large, fast and therefore bright enough to explode, that meteor is known as a "bolide."

When meteors are large but much slower than this one, The Weather Network explained that parts of it are more likely to reach the ground intact.

This is how we can end up finding meteorites on earth.

It's worth noting that while this bolide was fairly large for a meteor and certainly produced a massive flash, it's not actually as big as you might expect.

As Mike Hankey from the American Meteor Society told USA Today, "This was a nice chunk but I doubt it was anywhere near [3.2 feet in diameter]. More likely it was in the softball to basketball range."

h/t: The Weather Network, USA Today

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