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A Mysterious Streak of Fire Appeared Over the Southeast U.S.

“I thought it was a plane exploding at first,” says a witness.

NASA

Around 1:30 EDT on Monday morning, a streak of fire tearing across the sky grew so intense people saw it from Pennsylvania to Florida.

The yet-solved burnout shown above was caught on a NASA camera in Rosman, North Carolina. A man named Jerry Lee Lewis Jr. (motto: “i am not related to any famous Lewises”) also photographed it in color from the Florida panhandle:

More than 130 people submitted reports to the American Meteor Society, including folks living in light-polluted burgs like Atlanta and Charlotte:

AMS

NASA believes that, as with the Chinese rocket that ate it in February, the event might be manmade. The space agency writes:

Based on the data we currently have, this object was not a meteor or fireball. Tracked by 5 NASA cameras in the SE, it is moving at roughly 14,500 miles per hour, which is too slow to be a meteor. As you can see in the video, it has also broken into multiple pieces, which, combined with the slow speed, indicates a possible reentry of space debris.

Some watchers claim they heard a detonation shortly after the thing disappeared. Here are a few of the reports to the meteor society:

  • Upon sighting the "astroid" neither myself nor the other two observers heard any sounds that seemed directly related to the object. But roughly 30 seconds after the fading of the fireball we all heard a distant echo of a significant impact/explosion. Possibly coincidence. But too loud to ignore.
  • I thought it was a plane exploding at first, the event may have lasted slightly more than 30 seconds, it traversed about 2x faster than the passing space station, with numerous eruptions as it passed on a western route.
  • It was the longest, widest, slowest moving trail I have ever seen. It may have lasted more than a minute, I lost sight because I was not able to pull over. I saw a couple cars that were pulled over to see it.
  • Im shaking all over. It was unbelievable.

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.