Huge fireballs are dramatic events and can really be stunning. In the span of two days, just after Christmas 2013, the U.S. Midwest was treated to two separate but dramatic fireballs.
The first was on Dec. 26 at 23:44 UTC (17:45 local time, though it spanned two time zones). This bright meteor was seen by thousands of people; it was the third most heavily reported fireball by the American Meteor Society. It traveled east to west and was seen in more than a half dozen states. A lot of people reported it being as bright as the Sun. As you can see in the video below (from a security camera in North Liberty, Iowa, near Iowa City), it flashed brightly several times—probably marking times when the meteoroid itself broke apart, creating big, sharp, explosive releases of energy—and there are hints of pieces falling off.
A second fireball was seen over roughly the same area on Dec. 28 at 04:20 UTC (22:20 local time). This was also widely reported to the AMS, including folks saying they heard explosive sounds (meteor sonic booms). This is what happened in Chelyabinsk earlier in 2013, but of course that explosion was a wee bit bigger.
But of course, some people go online to fake videos/pictures of them , and they rapidly go viral because no one checks to see whether it’s real. That happened recently with a Alabama fireball. That happened with the Dec. 26 fireball too. Within minutes of the event, a photo was going around Twitter that I knew I had seen before. And I was right: It was from a bright meteor over the Netherlands in 2009.
See for yourself: On the top is the picture of the Netherlands fireball, and below it the picture that went around on Dec. 26. You can see they’re the same meteor, with the new one having the brightness ramped up a bit.
I know there’s no stopping this kind of thing! But you can check for yourself by following these simple steps:
1. Save the image to your computer. 2. Go to Google Image Search. 3. Drag the picture into the search field, and Google will then find similar images.
Stop junk propagation and appreciate reality for what it is. Reality’s usually way cooler than the fake stuff anyway!