People in a dozen states from North Carolina to New Hampshire reported seeing a meteor Tuesday night. Steve Chazin captured it on his dashcam in Washingon, D.C. (Video courtesy of Steve Chazin/@stevechazin)
The blue-green flash over Baltimore Tuesday night wasn’t a UFO, a plane or a lightning strike. It was a meteor.
People in a dozen states — from South Carolina to New Hampshire — reported seeing a meteor just before 11 p.m. Tuesday, according to the American Meteor Society. Many took to social media to share video and images of the space rock exploding in the atmosphere, leaving a blue-green blaze across the sky in its wake.
Scott Rudlosky, a physical scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the Geostationary Lightning Mapper confirmed the meteor. The satellite-based tool picks up meteors that burn in Earth’s atmosphere in addition to lightning flashes.
The instrument was launched into orbit about two years ago to help the National Weather Service track severe weather. Its filters sort out other events, but meteors still leave their marks.
It’s not uncommon for meteors to enter Earth’s atmosphere, Rudlosky said. But it can be rare for people to spot them, particularly if they fall in the middle of the night.
“All the time these are occurring, it’s just a matter of people seeing them to report them,” Rudlosky said.
Tuesday night’s meteor lit up the night sky at about 10:57 p.m., when much of the East Coast still was awake to see it.
Terri Harringon, senior vice president of MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate, was watching television in her eighth-floor condominium in Silo Point when she saw the neon turquoise blaze shoot across the sky. She ran into another room to see if she could see it still .
“My initial reaction was, ‘Is that a helicopter?’” she said. “It wasn’t like I saw it off in the distance.”
Though the meteor’s path was off the Atlantic coast, she said it seemed much closer.
“It seemed like it was eye-level. It wasn’t high up in the sky,” she said. “It honest to God felt like it went right by my window.”
A search on Twitter told her she wasn’t the only one who saw the phenomenon. Her neighbor below saw the same flash from the building’s east-facing windows, too.
“I didn’t even think ‘meteor.’ I just knew it was something that I hadn’t seen before,” Harrington said. “For about an hour I told myself I was crazy.”
Other standout meteors have been spotted in recent weeks over Georgia, Oklahoma and Florida, Rudlosky said.
The American Meteor Society classified Tuesday’s meteor as a fireball — a meteor that burns brighter than the planet Venus. Rudlosky called it a bolide, a type of fireball that creates a bright flash as it explodes.
The meteor spotted Tuesday night fell during the start of the annual Lyrid meteor shower, though it’s unclear if this particular meteor was part of that event. The Lyrids fall every April 16-25, and this year’s shower is expected to peak April 23.