Steve brought to my attention this story about a mysterious fireball that was spotted streaking through the skies over Texas. Here video of the event —
As you might expect, a few sonic booms accompanied it.
From a few reports, no one is quite sure what it was. At first, it was speculated that it was some of the debris from the collision of a U.S. Iridium satellite and Russian Cosmos 2251 communications relay satellite a few days ago, but that was quickly ruled out. Most likely, it was a meteor (which I guess is technically space debris, now that I think about it).
As you might expect, this got me to thinking about the skies above Connecticut, and I found that just a few weeks ago on January 23, a meteor hit the earth’s atmosphere above southeastern Massachusetts and was witnessed by residents of the state’s Quiet Corner. As someone who tends to enjoy looking up into the night sky, I’ve been lucky enough to see a few meteors streak across it.
Of course, Connecticut played a major role in meteor history two hundred years ago with the celebrated Weston meteorite of 1807, on display at Yale’s Peabody Musuem. It may be hard to fathom, but before then, people didn’t think that rocks could just fall from the sky — whenever meteors were seen, it was believed that they had been sent skyward by volcanoes or some other Earthly cause, and were simply coming back down. The sheer size and spectacular nature of the Weston meteorite’s impact made it the first recorded meteor fall by European colonists in American history, and started the ball rolling toward acceptance of the “meteors are from space” theory. It was such a significant event that it even garnered the attention of then-president Thomas Jefferson, who allegedly scoffed at the two Connecticut scientists who investigated the “space rock” by saying, ““I would more easily believe that two Yankee professors would lie than that stones would fall from heaven.”
If you’re interested in more about the history of the Weston meteorite and its importance, here’s a story that ran during the 200th celebration of the event in 2007.