"Fire in the sky" witnessed by many in southeastern NC

(Photo: Generic)
(Photo: Generic)

Posted by Meteorologist Robb Ellis - bio | email | facebook

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) -  What appears to have been a meteor was witnessed by quite a few people in southeastern North Carolina on Tuesday evening.

Reports started coming in just after 7:30 p.m. of a "fire in the sky." Many people described the meteor as a fireball and lasted only a few seconds.

Residents from Pender, Brunswick and New Hanover Counties reported seeing the object to the north and east, traveling north with a glowing fiery tail.

"I want to report a fireball," said one Wilmington caller to a New Hanover County 911 dispatcher. "It was big and it was bright. It burned up before it hit the ground but it was big and VERY bright."

"That fireball--that was a rarity," said Mark Jankowski, the planetarium director at Ingram Planetarium. "You're not going to see them that often."

Jankowski said the size of the meteor is what made it a rare sight, but that it's common for tiny "micro-meteors" to fall to the earth every day.

A meteor is the visible trail of a piece of rock or debris from space that burns up as it enters Earth's atmosphere. Objects moving at many thousands of miles per hour create friction with the atmosphere as they enter. Most burn up with a glowing or fiery trail.

Reports of Tuesday night's meteor have come in from as far away as northeastern South Carolina and Greenville North Carolina.

Dottie David-Wilson is the executive director of Ocean Isle Museum Foundation, Inc., which operates the Ingram Planetarium as well as the Museum of Coastal Carolina in Ocean Isle Beach.

David-Wilson hopes the meteor sightings will spark an interest in astronomy.

"People are going to start looking up," she said. "And with all the other things going on the world it's nice to be able to look up and be refreshed."

The National Weather Service suggests reporting all meteor sightings to the American Meteor Society.  Their website has reports of other sightings.

If you have pictures of the event, please email them to pics@wect.com.

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