Friday, September 30, 2005

Fireball Lights Up South Florida Sky

Fireball Over Mountains
By Akilah Johnson
The Sun-Sentinel


     That's how fast witnesses said a glowing meteor streaked across Florida skies Thursday before disappearing. From Fort Lauderdale to Cape Canaveral people called the National Weather Service reporting the bright orange orb.

      "We think it was a meteor that was falling through the sky and burning up," said Barry �Baxter, a weather service meteorologist. "We don't know if it was over the ocean or land. [People] just said it was over the sky, like a fireball�with a smoke tail behind it."

     That's how Bob Cooper, 48, of Dania Beach, described it, a flaming ball sans the smoke tail. He was in the backyard throwing a Frisbee to Bill, his golden retriever, when something caught his attention.

     "All of a sudden this thing shot from my right," said Cooper, describing the "thing" about the size of a baseball. "And it was super fast, so you know it was in a hurry. It turned from orange to the-center-of-the-sun yellow then it disintegrated."

     It was unclear what direction the glowing glob traveled Thursday or the size. Baxter said NASA would determine both.

     "If it was determined by NASA not to be a piece of re-entering space debris, then it was most likely a sporadic fireball," said Jack �Horkheimer, planetarium director at the Miami Museum of Science. "It has all the determiners of a fireball."

     Fireballs are extremely bright meteors about the size of a baseball or basketball that slam into the earth's atmosphere at high speeds, he said. They are common, but often go unreported because most of the planet is uninhabited; water covers 70 percent.

     "They are nothing to worry about -- a wonderful phenomenon of nature," Horkheimer said. "We've been pelted by this stuff for at least 4.5 billion years, and we'll continue to be pelted by them for about another 4.5 billion years."

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