What burns bright green and flies through the air with its tail sticking out behind it?
It was a meteor, say Texas residents. Many reported seeing a fireball streaming across the Saturday night sky, a regional bureau of the National Weather Service said.
At least two of them apparently caught it whizzing by on camera — one of them snapped a photo, the other recorded a dash cam video. YouTube user shadeth posted it online.
A society dedicated to gazing the skies for meteors showed many dozens of entries from people in various parts of the Lone State who reported seeing it within minutes of the same time — 8:45 p.m. Central (9:45 p.m. ET).
That’s the same time that the Maverick County Sheriff’s Department reported that the ground shook, when a meteorite landed, NWS San Antonio said.
Andromedid meteor shower
The fleeting flash occurred during a meteor shower called the Andromedids, said the American Meteor Society. The day of its highest activity was Saturday.
It has yet to be confirmed if the fireball was part of the shower. There’s always the chance it could be one of a few stray meteors that streak through Earth’s skies most every day.
The Andromedids are a so-called “variable” meteor shower, one that produces a show in the sky only rarely, AMS said. Major meteor showers, by contrast, do so with regularity, when the Earth’s orbit takes it through their debris fields annually.
Another distinction: Major showers are best visible after midnight. Variable showers are best visible in the evening.
The Andromedid debris field was created in late 1842/early 1843, when its parent comet 3D/Biela disintegrated, NASA Meteor Watch said. It’s likely Jupiter’s potent gravity ripped it apart, when it flew by too close.
Its wreckage “produced spectacular meteor storms in 1872 and 1885,” NASA said. “Since then, the Andromedid meteor shower has faded to an almost insignificant remnant of its former self.”
But, in recent years, new outbursts of meteors reappeared in the night sky. NASA believes that 3D/Biela ejected the debris causing them some time before it fell apart.
“That faint streak of light is a fragment from a now dead comet,” NASA said, “finally reaching Earth after a journey of 400 years.”