Arizona astronomer explains the meteor event over Phoenix Tuesday night

The Lowell Observatory looked into where the meteor might have landed in Arizona and where it came from.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Southwest got quite a stellar show from the solar system Tuesday night compliments of a sporadic meteor.

Some may have not only witnessed it, but may have heard a sonic boom just before 8:30 p.m.
Lowell Observatory astronomer Nick Moskovitz described the event as, “a pretty dramatic event for those who happened to see it.”

Social media flooded with dash cam, surveillance and phone video footage of the meteor.
Moskovitz said it didn’t belong to any annual shower.

“So you have asteroids out there floating around and a piece of one of those asteroids could’ve gotten knocked off and made its way to Earth,” Moskovitz explained.

Hurtling at about 60,000 miles an hour into our atmosphere, exploding, falling apart and flashing as bright as a full moon -- if anything is left of what astronomers think started as big as a football, “it would almost certainly be in Arizona,” Moskovitz said.

Along with all the unknowns is the exact location. Once scientists look over all the recorded data, they can pin down a smaller search area between Flagstaff and Phoenix, east of Interstate 17.

“Meteorites have what’s called a fusion crust on their surface, which gives them a very black appearance and so they look almost like fresh pieces of coal sitting there in the desert,” Moskovitz said.

It’s likely it ended up in Arizona, but its exact size, where it started and everything in between is soon to be discovered with the help of the observatory’s cameras and those lucky enough to have seen it. More than 100 people who saw it had logged their coordinates by Wednesday with the American Meteor Society and astronomers welcomed more.

Moskovitz said events like these are pretty common, but ones of this magnitude only happen about once a year so it’s important to keep your eyes on the night sky to see what you might catch.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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