Texas Fireball Video Not a Meteor; It's a Contrail

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In a classic case of mistaken identity, the screenshot of an eyewitness video featured in an earlier Discovery News article is not the meteor it seemed to be.

The original video of a news report shows what appears to be a bright daytime meteor burning through the atmosphere. The explanation was that it was likely one of the mysterious “spring” meteors that are known to hit our planet at this time of year. They are slow moving and may create a dazzling fireball display.

Although there have been numerous sightings on April 2 in Texas, this particular example is not a meteor. In fact, it’s not from space at all. It’s a contrail highlighted by the orange hue of sunset. Sure, it looks fiery, but its not — it’s the exhaust of a passenger jet forming a condensation trail (or “contrail”) in its wake.

This may seem like a pretty unique occurrence, but as discussed by Mick West of Contrail Science, this kind of misidentification happens a lot:

This is a remarkably common news story: It’s just after sunset, someone looks towards the west and they see the short contrail of a jet plane illuminated by the sun. It looks red, like fire. They zoom in with their video camera. They don’t know what it is, thinking it’s a fireball, a meteor, or some kind of UFO, so they alert the local media. The local media published it, and occasionally the story grows.

And grow it did!

As mentioned by Discovery News’ Jason Major, there were indeed sightings of a meteor over Texas on April 2, but this particular eyewitness video footage was not it.

Many thanks to Daniel Fischer for alerting Discovery News to the contrail video.

Many thanks to Daniel Fischer for alerting Discovery News to the contrail video.

Video of the offending news report:

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