Friday, June 3, 2016

Update: Asteroid broke apart over Payson

The boom and flash of light that broke the predawn quiet and lit up the sky early Thursday was confirmed by NASA officials to be a small asteroid, about 10 feet in diameter, that had entered the Earth's atmosphere above Arizona. 

Scientists estimated that the object was moving at more than 40,000 mph when it sped across the Arizona sky shortly before 4 a.m.

There were no immediate reports of damage.

“If Doppler radar is any indication, there are almost certainly meteorites scattered on the ground north of Tucson," a spokesman from NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.

The Arizona Geological Survey’s seismic network picked up an impact near Payson, and the agency believes that it marks the detonation of the asteroid.

More than 140 people have reported the “bright fireball” that illuminated the sky around 3:57 a.m. Thursday to the American Meteor Society, a spokesman said. Very bright meteors, also referred to as “fireballs,” occur quite frequently over oceans and other inhabited areas but are usually not visible in daylight, the society said.

Dust and meteorites fall to Earth's surface daily, according to the NASA statement, with between 80 and 100 tons of material entering the atmosphere each day.

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