It was not criminal, it was heavenly. A police dashcam in New Jersey caught a dazzling sight in the early hours of Saturday: a meteor flying across the sky in a flash of fiery brilliance. A second or two steps and then with a burst of light, it goes away and the sky returns to the blackness.
Hamilton Police Sgt. Michael Virga was on patrol around 3 a.m. when I saw it. "It was a fixed point in the sky, then a bright lime green streak and then it disintegrated," he tells NPR.
At first he thought maybe it was a firework, but he shook himself enough to stop the video. And indeed he had recorded a clear view of the screen. Virga said that a later look at the American Meteor Society's website, which tracks such sightings, confirmed that many others also saw the meteor.
A meteor comes from a meteoroid, which is a piece of asteroid, really just a little rock – it gets close to the earth, warms up and vaporizes in an instant – resulting in the splendid strip of light.
And they happen all the time. In the peak month of September, you can see up to 8 meteors per hour, says AMS, as long as you have unobstructed views and think about looking up. As NASA says, "space is a rocky place," and we're likely to find some debris as we go.
A good opportunity to witness a dramatic exhibition could come next week.
Geminids occur every December and are considered one of the best meteor showers of the year due to their brightness. The screen reaches its maximum on Wednesday, December 13 around 2 a.m. local time. NASA says they can be seen from anywhere in the world, with the best views of city lights or street lights.
According to his own experience, Virga said that it was simply "being in the right place at the right time". "After the department posted the video on Facebook, it says that social networks have also been enlightening about it."
"It's something different," says Virga.