It was 10:18 p.m on Monday night when the night skies of Florida were illuminated by an exploding fireball. Hundreds witnessed the meteor streak across the sky and then explode (285 accounts including videos as per the numbers given by the American Meteor Society).
To the American Meteor Society, it was event 2281-2021. The eyewitness accounts also included some from Georgia and the Bahamas. Doorbell cameras and dashcams captured an asteroid, roughly the size of a car, believed to have burned up in the atmosphere of Earth. Several social media users posted videos showing the fireball streaking across the sky.
Jay O’Brien, a reporter for CBS 12 in West Palm Beach, Florida tweeted:
“WOAH! Big flash and streak across the sky in West Palm Beach. Happened moments ago while we were on Facebook Live for a @CBS12 story.
Working to figure out what it was.”
Bill McIntosh from Orlando said: “Whatever it was in the sky tonight, I am sure glad it didn’t crash into and damage my flat roof.”
Experts were quick to weigh in on the occurrence. Space.com estimated the asteroid to be about 14 feet across. Bill Cooke is NASA’s lead for the Meteoroid Environments Office (MEO). He believes that the fireball was caused by a fragment of an asteroid. He estimated the 900-pound asteroid fragment to have hit the atmosphere of Earth at a speed of 38000 miles per hour. Cooke called it a “slowpoke” given the fact that some meteors hit Earth’s atmosphere at speeds up to 130000 miles per hour. Bill does not consider the event to be something extraordinary:
“You have a good chance of seeing one of these if you spend a decent amount of time outdoors at night,” said Bill.
Despite multiple other sightings in the Continental United States, experts rejected the possibility of it being a part of a meteor shower.
Mike Hankey, operations manager with the American Meteor Society termed the meteor “sporadic”:
“Most of these big meteors like this are sporadic or random. There’s no origin or common origin that we know of or understand,” said Hankey.
There were initial claims that the fireball was actually the 2021 G4 asteroid ( The 2021 G4 is a recently spotted near-earth asteroid). Some experts rejected this claim. Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Center for Astrophysics Harvard-Smithsonian called it “a normal fireball” that had nothing to with G4. He said:
“The way you know it wasn’t GW4 is that Florida is still there.”
The big flash of light, for McDowell, was “basically all of its kinetic energy getting transformed into heat and light,”.
Bill Cooke was also of the view that it wasn’t G4, which he believed, was still orbiting the sun and was in a totally different orbit.
In layman’s terms, the event is not something to be concerned about. As per NASA calculations, this was the closest the asteroid will come to the Earth for a century. NASA, to date, has identified over 25000 near-Earth asteroids, most of which are not big enough to pose a threat to Earth.