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article imageNASA cameras catch fireball

By Murray Newlands     Feb 18, 2015 in Science
NASA cameras caught a massive fireball that erupted over Pittsburgh at 4:45 a.m. on Tuesday, February 17, 2015. The fireball could be clearly seen from areas of New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
NASA cameras located at the Allegheny Observatory, Hiram College and Oberlin College captured video of the fireball which was the result of a space rock entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
According to NASA officials, the space rock was approximately two feet in diameter and weighed about 500 pounds. It was first detected about 60 miles above Beaver Falls after it entered the atmosphere over Western Pennsylvania. Witnesses said that the fireball was brighter than a full moon and experts say there could be fragments of the rock scattered near Kittanning, Pennsylvania.
The cameras were part of NASA’s All Sky Fireball Network, which is a collection of cameras that watch the sky. Because three of the cameras in the network captured the event, it is now well documented and allow scientists to further study the track of meteors near the Earth.
Experts say that the meteor originated in the asteroid belt, traveling at a speed of over 70,000 km/hour as it moved from east to west. The cameras tracked the space rock as it descended from 60 miles above the earth until it was 13 miles above before the cameras lost track.
The fireball was clearly visible and many news agencies in the Pittsburgh area received calls and emails from viewers asking what it was. NASA released information about the meteor on their NASA Meteor Watch Facebook page. In addition, the space agency has created an animation video that demonstrates what it was like for the meteor as it made its descent toward earth. Their Facebook page says that the animation demonstrates what it would be like if you were sitting on the meteor as it fell to the ground.
According to NASA, there are many fireballs in the atmosphere and they developed the All Sky Fireball Network to observe meteors that are often brighter than the planet Venus. There was no threat to the earth from the meteor which caused the flash over the three states early Tuesday morning, but the flash in the sky did cause concern as people were unsure what had caused what appeared to be a large explosion above the ground.
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