Loud fireball spotted over southern Mississippi mostly heard, hardly seen

A fiery meteor streaked across the morning skies in southern Mississippi yesterday on April 27, 2022.

More than 30 eyewitnesses in the states of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi reported seeing a bright fireball at 8:03 a.m. CDT. The sighting was soon followed by numerous reports of loud booms heard in Claiborne County, Mississippi, and surrounding counties.

GLM image from the GOES 16 satellite. Credits: NOAA

Approximately 22,000 miles out in space, NOAA’s Geostationary Lightning Mappers (GLM) onboard the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) 16 and 17 detected several bright flashes associated with the fragmentation’s of this bolide, or exceptionally bright meteor, which was first spotted 54 miles above the Mississippi River near the Mississippi town of Alcorn.

“This is one of the nicer events I have seen in the GLM data,” said Bill Cooke, lead of NASA’s Meteoroid Environments Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Fireball ground track from eyewitness accounts. Credits: NASA/American Meteor Society

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The object – thought to be a piece of an asteroid about a foot in diameter with a weight of 90 pounds – moved southwest at a speed of 55,000 miles per hour, breaking into pieces as it descended deeper into Earth’s atmosphere. It disintegrated about 34 miles above the swampy area north of Minorca in Louisiana.

The fragmentation of this fireball generated an energy equivalent of 3 tons of TNT (trinitrotoluene), which created shock waves that propagated to the ground, producing the booms and vibrations felt by people in the area.

At its peak, the fireball was over 10 times brighter than the Full Moon.

“What struck me as unusual was how few eyewitness reports we had given the skies were so clear,” said Cooke. “More people heard it than saw it.”

by Lance D. Davis

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