Fireball shots

A real fireball, and there are photos.

A fireball was visible in the sky around the world—including in Charlotte—in the early hours of May 27. This is a satellite shot of that fireball.

Photo by Keystone College Thomas G. Cupillari Observatory—John D. Sabia

It’s not your imagination. It’s a fireball.

Chea Waters Evans

The sky was on fire for a couple seconds last month, and only one person around here saw it. Among the usual posts on Front Porch Forum about yard sales and electrician recommendations, on May 27 there was a curious post from Charlotter Marissa Green. 

“Did anyone else see a meteorite come down around 2:45 a.m. last night? I saw it over Lime Kiln Rd. going towards the lake and it looked like it was going to land in town somewhere. Never seen one that low before! Love to see it if it landed nearby. Hopefully it didn't hurt anyone or anything.”

Green said she woke up in the middle of the night that Thursday and happened to look out the window. She was groggy, but awake and alert enough to see the bright flash in the night sky. 

“At first I thought it was aliens,” she said, “But then I realized it was probably a meteor.”

It most likely wasn’t aliens. Paul Walker, secretary of the Vermont Astronomical Society, confirmed that it was probably a fireball, which is a large meteor. He shared this link to the American Meteor Society, which confirms, “We received 28 reports about a fireball seen over DE, MI, NJ, NY, Ontario, PA and VT on Thursday, May 27th 2021 around 06:31 UT.” This confirmed Fireball event puts Green in the right place at the right time. (If you click the link, you’ll see photos and videos of the fireball in action, as well as detailed information from other people who saw it.)

Green, who had never seen anything like it before, said she was pretty surprised. “It was on fire,” she said. “It was like blue and orange fire, and there was some green, too. It was really colorful; it was crazy. I would say it looked like a volleyball about 20 feet above the trees--on fire.”

The fireball, which she said had a tail and was just over the treeline, looked really close to the ground. “I was a little worried at first,” she said. “I’ve seen lots of shooting stars, but never anything that close. I was like, ‘Uh oh, what’s going on?’”

No one responded to Green’s FPF post, though one person did ask, if there was any debris, that a tiny piece of it be donated to local educational program Project MICRO. Green said that no one called or emailed her privately about it, either. 

Fireballs are common occurrences, but rarely seen. According to the American Meteor Society’s website, “Several thousand meteors of fireball magnitude occur in the Earth’s atmosphere each day. The vast majority of these, however, occur over the oceans and uninhabited regions, and a good many are masked by daylight. Those that occur at night also stand little chance of being detected due to the relatively low numbers of persons out to notice them. Additionally, the brighter the fireball, the more rare is the event.”

Green can confirm: “I’ve never seen anything like it before,” she said.

Walker said that based on the collection of sightings, he can assure Green that “there was likely little danger of it reaching the ground. Though it looked very low and very close, it was actually very high and far away, about 120 miles away over New York State, a little northwest of Albany, and probably more than 50 miles high.”