Mystery Revealed: Fireball Was Likely a Meteor

The object was seen from Phoenix, Las Vegas and coastal Southern California

By Jonathan Lloyd, Wendy Harris, Stephanie Stanton and Cary Berglund
|  Thursday, Sep 15, 2011  |  Updated 6:14 PM PDT
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The director of the Griffith Observatory, Dr. E.C. Krupp, says the mystery object that streaked across the southwestern U.S. Wednesday night was likely a meteor.

KNBC-TV

The director of the Griffith Observatory, Dr. E.C. Krupp, says the mystery object that streaked across the southwestern U.S. Wednesday night was likely a meteor.

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The fiery green light that rocketed across the sky Wednesday night probably was a fireball or bright meteor that disintegrated before it hit the ground, according to NASA experts.

The fiery light was seen over the southwestern United States. Residents in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Southern California reported seeing the object.

"We can't say 100 percent, but it's almost certain that the object was a fireball or very bright meteor,'' said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program.

He said the object was probably about the size of a basketball or baseball. It likely disintegrated before it hit the ground.

Witnesses reported seeing the object at about 7:30 p.m. It moved west to east.

"I was talking to my friend and said, Oh My God, I'm watching something. I don't know what it is? It's not a UFO, but it's something falling from the sky, like on fire," said Marty Styles, who watched the light in Southern California. 

The blue-green color suggests the object contained magnesium of nickel, Yeomans said. Other witnesses said it glowed orange, which indicated it entered earth's atmosphere at several miles per second, he said.

Such events are not as common as shooting stars, but they occur on a weekly basis, he added. The fireballs are usually seen flying over the ocean.

"This happens all the time," said Dr. Ed Krupp, Griffith Observatory director. "This one happened to do it in the early evening over Southern California."

With a lot of different terms being thrown around -- meteor, meteorite, asteroid -- NBCLA asked Dr. Krupp to sort it all out.

"The bright streak of light that people saw is a meteor," Dr. Krupp said.  "If that object actually hits the ground, it's called a meteorite.  It is really just a rock in space.  And almost any rock in space might be called an asteroid.  We usually think of asteroids as something that's bigger than I can handle to something that's tens of miles across.  So I'd call it a rock in space."

The FAA confirmed there were no aircraft incidents in the Western region. The FAA and the National Weather Service said they have received many calls.

If you have any photographs of the flying object email NBCLA at isee@nbcla.com.

Follow NBCLA for the latest LA news, events and entertainment: Twitter: @NBCLA // Facebook: NBCLA

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