Footage has just surfaced of the massive fireball that lit up the night sky over Portland, Maine on Tuesday, and let’s just say this thing looked incredible.
According to the American Meteor Society, they received nearly 700 reports about the fireball event over the northeastern US on 17 May 2016 around 12:50am EDT (4:50 UT). People could reportedly see the super-bright cosmic event not only in Maine, but in Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and even parts of Canada.
"You never know what you are going to see on duty," the Portland Maine Police Department said on Facebook when it posted the amazing footage below. "Sgt. Farris was looking for speeders while parked in front of the central fire station and was able to observe some visitors 'from away' … far away."
While the cops seem to definitely want it to be aliens (don’t we all), no luck this time, but that doesn’t make the event any less spectacular. Here’s their footage:
And from the Plattsburgh Police Department in New York:
Fireball is a term given to extremely bright meteors such as this. In fact, they're so bright, that the International Astronomical Union (IAU) defines a fireball as "a meteor brighter than any of the planets", which means it has to have an apparent magnitude (a measurement of brightness in astronomy) of -4 or greater.
To put that in perspective, the Sun has an apparent magnitude of -27, a full moon is around -13. Sirius, the brightest visible star in the night sky, is at -1.5, and the International Space Station appears at a magnitude of -6.
According to data picked up by the American Meteor Society, the Portland fireball ended up as two separate objects in the sky, which suggests that the original meteroid broke apart before entering Earth’s atmosphere and burning up as separate meteors. You can see the pair here, with one much larger one zooming beside a smaller one:
There's been no reported damage caused by the visiting fireball, but it certainly left an impression on the people lucky enough to see it.
"There was a 3 to 5 min delay from the time I saw it to the boom I heard and felt - very loud and shook the home - unlike anything I have ever experienced before," witness Craig C. from Canton, Maine recounted.
Just another incredible reminder that we are very much a part of a bustling Solar System, even if our Netflix binges and vaping dramas make it so easy to forget. Here's a compilation of more footage captured of the event: