Fireball in Mississippi: Scientists confirmed Thursday, April 29, 2022, that a loud boom preceded a streaking fireball seen in three Southern states.
After hearing tremendous booms in Claiborne County, Mississippi, and adjacent regions, more than 30 people in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi reported seeing the abnormally bright meteor in the sky at about 8 a.m. Wednesday, NASA reported. Officials reported it was originally seen 54 miles (87 kilometers) above the Mississippi River near Alcorn, Mississippi.
“This is one of the finer events I’ve seen in the GLM (Geostationary Lightning Mappers) data,” said Bill Cooke, the Meteoroid Environments Office lead at NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The object dubbed a bolide by experts, traveled southwest at 55,000 miles per hour (88,500 kilometers per hour), breaking up as it dropped deeper into Earth’s atmosphere. It disintegrated around 34 miles (55 kilometers) above a swampy area north of Minorca, Louisiana, in the unincorporated Concordia Parish settlement.
The Vicksburg Post reported that one witness heard a loud explosion and then glanced up to see an “orange fireball the size of a basketball with a white tail behind it” flying west toward the Mississippi River.
Claiborne County Emergency Management Agency issued a statement on Facebook confirming the reports and stating that the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station was unaffected.
The message stated, “Citizens of Claiborne County, local officials are aware of the loud sound that was heard throughout the county.” “The Grand Gulf Nuclear Station was unaffected by this incident, and the station is safe….” There is no danger to the county, and no action is necessary.”
According to NASA, the disintegration of the fireball created enough energy to cause shockwaves that extended to the ground, causing the booms and vibrations noticed by locals.
According to NASA, the fireball was more than ten times brighter than the full moon at its peak.
“What struck me as remarkable was the scarcity of eyewitness reports we had given the clear skies,” Cooke remarked. “It was heard more than seen.”
Scientists believe the item was a 1-foot (0.3 meters) wide asteroid that fragmented around 34 miles (55 kilometers) above a swampy region of Louisiana, north of the town Minorca.
According to the same NASA statement, the bolide, or exceptionally bright meteor, was likely over 10 times brighter than a full moon at its peak. Despite its amazing brilliance, few people claimed to have seen it in the sky.
“What struck me as surprising was how few eyewitness accounts we received, given the clear sky,” Bill Cooke, NASA‘s Meteoroid Environments Office lead at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said in the same statement. “It was heard more than seen.”
While most people on the ground were only able to hear the meteor as it approached Earth, satellites in space were able to see it.
According to the statement, the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) instrument aboard the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) 16 and 17 spotted a number of bright flashes that scientists believe were caused by the meteor breaking up in the atmosphere.
Cooke commented, “This is one of the finer incidents I’ve seen in the GLM data.”
Satellites first noticed the object 54 miles (87 kilometers) above the Mississippi River near Alcorn, Mississippi.
What is Fireball in Astronomy Terms?
Fireballs and bolides are astronomical terminologies for meteors that are extraordinarily bright and spectacular enough to be seen over a large area. A global map depicts a visual depiction of the data table, which contains a chronological data summary of fireball and bolide events as reported by US government sensors.
Ground-based viewers may see these phenomena as magnificent atmospheric light displays at night or, much more infrequently, during the day. This webpage is not intended to be a comprehensive listing of all fireball events. Only the most brilliant fireballs are recorded.
A meteoroid is an asteroid or comet fragment that orbits the Sun and is between ten microns to a meter in size. Meteors, sometimes known as “shooting stars,” are the visible tracks of meteoroids that have sped through the Earth’s atmosphere.
When observed at the observer’s zenith, a fireball is an extraordinarily bright meteor with a visual magnitude of -3 or brighter.
The size of the objects that cause fireballs can reach one meter. Although the phrases fireballs and bolides are frequently used interchangeably, bolides are fireballs that explode in the atmosphere.
Atmospheric friction slows and heats an impacting item during the atmospheric entry phase. A bow shock forms in front of it, compressing and heating air gases. Some of this energy is radiated at the item, causing it to ablate and, in the majority of cases, break apart.
Fragmentation boosts ablation and atmospheric braking by increasing the amount of atmosphere intercepted. When the force from the unequal pressures on the front and back sides surpasses the object’s tensile strength, the object is catastrophically disrupted.
Fireball-causing objects are rarely large enough to survive intact transit through the Earth’s atmosphere, though bits or meteorites are occasionally found on the ground.
The total radiated energy in the atmosphere is measured in Joules, a unit of energy equal to kilograms times velocity squared, or kg x (m/s)2. A kiloton (kt) event is defined as an event with the energy equivalent of 1,000 tonnes of TNT explosives, where 1 kt = 4.185 x 1012 Joules.
The total radiated energy is presented in the Data Table, however, it is always less than the total impact energy. Brown et al., The flux of tiny near-Earth objects colliding with the Earth, propose an empirical expression to approximate the total impact energy in kt (E) given the optical radiant energy in kt (Eo) (see Brown et al., The flux of small near-Earth objects impacting with the Earth).
If you see one of these noteworthy incidents, please report it to the American Meteor Society as soon as possible, with as many details as possible. This will include things like brightness, length across the sky, color, and duration (how long did it last).
It’s also helpful if the observer mentally notes the fireball’s start and endpoints in relation to background star constellations, or compass direction and angular elevation above the horizon.