Hundreds of people reported seeing a fireball streak through the night sky Tuesday night just ahead of peak times to see two meteor showers this month.
Screenshot of a video of the fireball caught from UTSC Observatory in Toronto, Canada. University of Toronto Scarborough Observatory
As of this writing, the American Meteor Society (AMS) received more than 700 reports about the event seen over the eastern Great Lakes region.
The fireball was seen primarily from Ontario but witnesses from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Washington DC, Michigan, West Virginia, Delaware, Massachusetts, Virginia and Québec also reported the event.
Witnesses Location and First Estimated Trajectory American Meteor Society
Initially, some in the Toronto area were worried that it may have been a plane crashing out of the sky. Toronto police and fire services told AMS they received multiple calls about a “plane crashing into the Toronto Harbour.” Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.
For some, the streak of bright light across the sky was accompanied by a sonic boom, according to The Washington Post . The hashtags #meteor and #fireball spread on Twitter, and the University of Toronto Scarborough Observatory posted a video of the fireball:
Mike Hankey, operations manager for the American Meteor Society, told the Washington Post that the fact that so many people reported the fireball makes it one of the “top 10 events of the year.”
“What struck me is that people from Canada to Southern Maryland saw it,” Hankey said. “That means it was pretty bright.”
While AMS has yet to say what the fireball was, Hankey said the most likely scenario is that it was an asteroid or a piece of a comet that may potentially end up as meteorites on the ground, which makes sense considering we are in a month where a major meteor shower, the Orionids, is taking place all month long.
Earth is currently passing through the tail of debris left behind by Halley’s Comet—which happens twice a year—making the Orionids visible through Nov. 7 with maximum activity on Oct. 22, according to AMS .
At the shower’s peak, stargazers could see up between 10 and 20 meteors per hour, according to EarthSky . The best time to try to get out and seen them is during the moonless predawn hours. Unfortunately, the moon is not cooperating this year with the peak time to see the meteors. The full moon comes on Oct. 15 and it will be Hunter’s Moon, the first of this year’s three supermoons, which will hinder visibility around the peak date. So EarthSky recommends you start watching now to try catch a peek of an Orionid meteor or two.
At the same time the Orionids are in our orbit, the Draconids will also be visible, from Oct. 5-8, in the northern region of the sky.
Look for the waxing crescent moon near the planet Mars as darkness fall on October 7, 2016. EarthSky
The projected number of meteors during the Draconid meteor shower is around 10-20 fireballs per hour, and can easily be spotted without a telescope, according to Nature World News . Unlike the Orionids, EarthSky recommends heading out earlier to watch the Draconids, just as nighttime falls in the early evening. While most meteor showers are best after midnight, this one is not. The peak night to watch is Oct. 7, so grab a blanket, find a nice dark area, lie down and face north.