Meteor Arizona: A space rock exploded over the city of Tucson, which roused residents from their dinner tables Tuesday. A whopper of a fireball roared over their heads had rattled their houses.
The spectacular annual Geminid meteor shower kicks into high gear Thursday night, NASA said, and people around the world will be able to enjoy it. The agency recorded nine of them Tuesday night. However, the one that exploded over Tucson did not appear to be one of them, said NASA expert Bill Cooke, who analyzed the flying space rock.
Traveling at 45,000 mph, it was too slow.
“A Geminid moves at 78,000 mph,” he said. And the direction it came from was not typical for a meteor from the big shower.
The fireball was just one of the handful of “sporadic background” meteors that whiz through the atmosphere every day.
However, this was a big one, Cooke confirmed. It weighed about 100 pounds and was about 16 inches thick. It made quite a bright flash, as it burned up in the atmosphere.
Even with 100 to 120 meteors per hour coming down during its peak on Friday and Saturday, the Geminid shower now has a tough act to follow.
Astronomer Tod Lauer heard the blast but did not bother to look outside.
“We were eating dinner and heard a good bang that rattled the roof of our house. I dismissed it as a sonic boom,” he posted to Facebook.
He realized it had to be more than that, when a local TV station phoned the scientist, who studies images from the Hubble Space Telescope, to ask him to explain what had happened.
Frantic eyewitnesses across Arizona called local news outlets to report what they saw.
The explosion shook Tony Kubrak’s house, too, he told CNN affiliate KGUN, which received a flood of calls and hundreds of posts to its Facebook page.
Kubrak went outside to check it out.
“I see this tremendous, white, bright light in the western sky. And it was just … it was absolutely enormous, I couldn’t believe it.”
Others took to social media.
“Did y’all see the meteor that flew above Tucson? Crazzzzy. That was toooo craaaazy!” Tucson resident Eric Gomez posted on Twitter.