The American Meteor Society has received reports of two more bright fireballs occurring on March 5th. We have received approximately 20 reports of the first fireball, which appeared near 5:35am CST (6:35am EST). It appeared over the mid-western states ranging from Alabama north to Ohio. The brightness of this fireball was equivalent to the half illuminated moon and the most mentioned color was blue-white. Refer to event #327 in the AMS Fireball Table.
The second fireball occurred near 20:00 EST (8:00pm) and was seen over the northeastern states ranging from Virginia northward to Massachusetts. The nearly 60 reports indicate a peak brightness near that of the half illuminated moon and a blue-white or green-white color. Refer to event #331 in the AMS Fireball Table.
A fireball is a meteor that is larger than normal. Most meteors are only the size of tiny pebbles. A meteor the size of a softball can produce light equivalent to the full moon for a short instant. The reason for this is the extreme velocity at which these objects strike the atmosphere. Even the slowest meteors are still traveling at 10 miles per SECOND, which is much faster than a speeding bullet. Fireballs occur every day over all parts of the Earth. It is rare though for an individual to see more than one or two per lifetime as they can also occur during the day (when the blinding sun can obscure them), or on a cloudy night, or over the ocean where there is no one to witness them. Observing during one of the major annual meteor showers can increase your chance of seeing another bright meteor.
Fireballs often appear much closer than they really are. The AMS receives countless reports that an object landed just over the hill when in fact it was several hundred miles away and was witnessed over several states or provinces. It is your perspective that makes meteors appear to strike the horizon when in fact they are still high in the atmosphere. This is much like a jetliner seen low in your sky. It appears low to you and close to the ground, but for someone located many miles away in that direction, the jetliner is passing high overhead. Meteors become visible at approximately 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. Friction slows these objects down until they fall below the velocity necessary to produce light. At this point they still lie at least 5 miles high in the sky. They are invisible below this altitude and cannot be seen as they basically free falling to the ground at 200mph. Very few meteors actually reach the ground as 99.99% completely disintegrate while still 10-20 miles up in the atmosphere.