CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A baseball-sized meteor blasted over the southeastern United States on Monday night, creating a bright streak of light, a sonic boom and a ruckus on Twitter.
The meteor appeared at 9:18 p.m. ET over Alabama, traveling at about 76,000 mph (122,300 kilometers per hour). It exploded 25 miles (40 kilometers) above Woodstock, Ala., located about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from Birmingham.
"Objects of this size hit the Earth's atmosphere on a daily basis, but this one happened near Birmingham, which is a fairly decently sized city, and a lot of people saw it," Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., told Reuters.
Many of the more than 180 eyewitness reports came from people attending a Mumford & Sons concert in Birmingham.
"This one wasn't at 2 in the morning, so a lot of people were out and about," Cooke said.
"I saw what I first thought was a falling star, and then it turned bright green," an observer from Anniston, Ala., posted on the American Meteor Society website.
"I saw it near Dallas Highway in Marietta (Georgia), near the National Battlefield," wrote another witness. "At first, I thought it was an errant firework, but it was bigger, neon green, came straight down and then disappeared."
Scientists calculated the meteor's orbit and determined that it came from an unknown comet. It exploded so low in Earth's atmosphere that it triggered a sonic boom.
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First published September 10 2013, 5:28 PM