FORT MYERS, Florida – Did you see the striking streak of light that cut through the dark sky on Monday night? If you didn’t, your home security camera might have it.
NBC2 received numerous eyewitness reports of the strange burst of light and many surveillance footage from nearby cameras flooded our mentions on social media.
The Tampa Bay National Weather Service said the strange occurrence was a bright meteor that burned off the coast of Florida.
In fact, the meteor was scheduled to pass through Florida. However, it seemed to get a little closer than expected.
Meteorites are rocky or metallic pieces of space that emit light when they fly through Earth’s atmosphere. The friction they endure as they approach our planet causes them to burn or vaporize, triggering the streak of fire in the sky that so many people witnessed last night.
Meteorites come in all shapes and sizes (some can be smaller than a grain of rice), so many do not survive the journey to Earth’s surface. When viewed one at a time, meteors are often called shooting stars. Multiple meteors witnessed together are called meteor showers.
On Tuesday morning there were at least 200 eyewitness reports in Florida who saw the appearance of the meteor fireball reported to the International Meteor Organization (IMO) last night. IMO is a global network of meteorite observers who collect and study meteorite reports. You can see on a map where each report came from along with submitted photos and video of the IMO event here.
Weather satellites, placed in space to monitor things like cloud cover and lightning, also briefly saw the fireball. The National Weather Service office in Tampa published a Photo from the GOES-16 satellite using the geostationary raymapper which also detected the illumination of the meteor. It has been circled in red in the satellite image below.
Although seeing a meteor is extraordinary and may seem like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, you may be surprised to learn that material meteors are made from showers and fly past Earth quite frequently. In fact, according to NASA, about 48.5 tons of “meteorite material” falls every day! To put that in perspective, think of an African elephant. A large adult elephant can grow up to 7 tons in weight. So if you were to round up seven of the largest elephants you could find in the African savannah, that equates to roughly the same weight as what falls to Earth on a daily basis. Because so much of this material is small and burns so fast, seeing the large meteor fireballs like last night is such a captivating experience.
Do you have a video of last night’s meteor? Send us your photos and videos to [email protected].