NASA confirmed the object was a piece of space junk, not a meteor. How can officials tell the difference? The speed and fragmentation of the object are often telltale signs.
Meteors slam into Earth’s atmosphere at anywhere between 25,000 mph to 160,000 mph. Last night’s space junk was travelling at just 14,500 mph. Plus, it broke up into several pieces before flaming out. Meteors aren’t usually big enough to break up.
132 reports were logged at the American Meteor Society (AMS). 99 of these reported fragmentation.
Fireballs aren’t all that uncommon. This one just happened to occur over a populated area.
We should get final confirmation on what the object was in the coming days.
If you’re interested in looking up more fireball reports, check out the AMS website. You can narrow the search down by reports to see how often fireballs occur.