Astronomers perplexed: Was mysterious Iowa ‘fireball’ a meteor or space debris? [VIDEO]

Hundreds of people in America’s Midwest said they saw the suspected meteor tearing through the sky.

By Staff, The Space Reporter
Sunday, December 29, 2013

Astronomers perplexed: Was mysterious Iowa ‘fireball’ a meteor or space debris? [VIDEO]

Update: This article was updated at 7:36 PM EST to include video of the incident. 

Astronomers say they are still working to determine whether an Iowa “fireball” was a meteor or space debris.

The massive fireball was seen in the early morning hours in Iowa on Thursday night. At least 700 people have reported a sighting and the fireball was reported by people across the Midwest, including Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Nebraska.

However, astronomers say they are still unsure whether the fireball was the result of space debris or a meteor. Officials at the National Weather Service say they are working to determine the source of the fireball, although the leading theory seems to support a meteor was the source.

Scientists are mainly studying footage captured by a CCTV camera. The footage, recorded by a camera in North Liberty, Iowa, shows a bright green flash as the object soars above the city until it eventually burns out. Overall the incident last less than ten seconds total.

The latest cosmic brush comes just months after Russia witnessed the violent explosion on February 18 of a 60-foot space rock that split into fragments miles above the city of Chelyabinsk and was the biggest blast of its kind in more than 100 years. It briefly outshone the sun and inflicted severe burns on observers below, as well as smashing windows and rattling buildings.

The incident could serve as valuable footage for astronomers. According to scientists, the footage also shows Venus in the distance and it may provide astronomers with a better understanding of the impact of minor meteor events.

On average the velocity of meteoroids entering our atmosphere is 25 miles per second. Atmospheric friction has little effect on the velocity and the smallest ones survive the voyage to the Earth’s surface are quickly slowed by atmospheric friction to speeds of a few hundred kilometers per hour.

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