Daylight Fireball Streaks Over Nevada and California

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UPDATE (9:13 p.m. EST): Asteroid the ‘Size of a Minivan’ Exploded over California.

When reports about a meteor make headline news in Los Angeles, it’s time to pay attention. In fact, anything that isn’t associated with a high-speed car chase or the latest celebrity DUI is usually worth paying attention to (take it from me, it doesn’t happen very often). But tonight, local news stations are reporting excited eyewitness accounts of a daytime meteor that ripped through the skies above Nevada and California on Sunday morning.

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According to NBC News 4, the daylight meteor was spotted after 8 a.m. PST as it traveled from northern Nevada to California. Eyewitness accounts of the streaking light accompanied by a sonic boom flooded in from Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County, Placer County, Tuolumne County, Amador County and Nevada County.

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In the Reno-Sparks area of Nevada, a “thunderous clap” was heard shortly after the sighting and the boom set off car alarms in Carson City, Nev.

According to eyewitness Jenae Neu, who spoke with the Reno Gazette-Journal, the fireball was dazzling: “I was outside my apartment and saw a huge bright thing in the corner of my eye,” Neu said. “I looked up and saw a huge bright ball with some sort of tail. It looked like it was about 100 yards away, and it only lasted about two seconds before it went behind a hill that’s close to my place. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen. It was crazy.”

Interestingly, this event coincided with the Lyrid meteor shower that peaked over the weekend, but just because the daytime meteor occurred at the same time, it doesn’t mean the two events are connected.

“People are putting two and two together and saying it has something to do with the meteor shower,” Dan Ruby of the Fleischmann Planetarium at the University of Nevada, Reno, told the Associated Press. “But the fireball was probably coincidental and unrelated to the peak of the meteor shower.”

Ruby estimates the meteor was “a little bigger than a washing machine.”

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Also speaking with the Associated Press, Robert Lunsford of the Geneseo, N.Y.-based American Meteor Society said, “From the reports, I have no doubt it was a fireball. It happens all the time, but most are in daytime and are missed. This one was extraordinarily bright in the daylight.”

Now the search is on for any fragments of the fireball that may have hit the ground as meteorites.

Image: Artist’s impression of a fireball over Earth. Credit: Corbis.