Cumberland Times-News

Local News

May 22, 2013

Fireball spotted over Maryland

Meteor entered atmosphere near Washington, traveled northwest

CUMBERLAND — FREDERICK (AP) — A bright light seen traveling across the sky over the weekend by dozens of witnesses across Maryland and the region is what astronomers are calling a fragmenting meteoric fireball.

The Frederick News-Post of Maryland reported that witnesses saw the fireball Saturday as early as 12:18 a.m. and as late as 1 a.m., with the majority of the sightings around 12:30 a.m. Some witnesses also reported hearing delayed booms.

The American Meteor Society said the fireball, a term used to describe an unusually bright meteor, is believed to have entered the atmosphere near Washington and traveled northwest.

The society said 60 witnesses reported seeing the meteor, including 13 from Maryland. Other witnesses in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia and Ohio also reported seeing it

In an e-mail to the News-Post, Woodsboro resident Ryan Ritchie described seeing the meteor at 12:33 a.m. while he was driving near Emmitsburg.

Ritchie said he saw a flash that he initially thought was lightning. He described the meteor as about one quarter of the size of the moon.

“I said ‘I didn’t know it was suppose to rain,”’ Ritchie wrote. “I then looked up at 70 degrees south as I was driving and saw a meteor shining through the clouds then go through an opening in the clouds then back behind the clouds again. There was about 3 seconds between flash and me seeing the meteor.”

Ritchie said he called his mother, who was driving in Frederick, and she also saw the fireball.

In 2012, 2,126 fireballs were reported to the American Meteor Society. The society said there could be as many as 500,000 fireballs annually, but most go unnoticed because they are either over the ocean or happen during the day.

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