A very bright fireball, at least 40 times as bright as the Full Moon, streaked across the night sky over the U.S. Southeast at 05:19 UTC (12:19 CDT) on August 17, 2018. The event lasted several seconds and was followed by a sonic boom.

The American Meteor Society has so far received 42 reports from people living in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina.

"Numerous eyewitnesses in the Southeast reported seeing a very bright fireball, which was also detected by all six NASA meteor cameras in the region," Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office said.

Heatmap and trajectory. Credit: AMS

Image credit: NASA/MEO

Analysis of the data indicates that the meteor was first seen at an altitude of 93 km (58 miles) above Turkeytown, Alabama (northeast of Gadsden), moving west of north at 86 400 km/h (53 700 mph). It fragmented some 29 km (18 miles) above the small town of Grove Oak.

Early results indicate the fireball, which was at least 40 times as bright as the Full Moon, was caused by a small asteroid 2 m (6 feet) in diameter, Cooke said.

"We are still assessing the probability of the fireball producing meteorites on the ground - whether it did or not, it was an extremely bright event, sen through partly cloudy skies and triggering every camera and sensor operated by the Meteoroid Environment Office in the region," Cooke said.

Featured image credit: NASA/MEO