On November 23, residents of Key West and the Florida Panhandle saw a fireball light up the night sky, prompting several phone calls to the police and the American Meteorological Society. Many even took to social media, claiming that a UFO was about to land in Florida.
While this flying object did, indeed, cause panic, (the American Meteorological Society reports receiving over 150 phone calls about the incident) it was confirmed that the object was a bolide simply passing through the Earth’s atmosphere. Evidently, nearly 500,000 of them pass near our planet each year. This one, however, was particularly bright. It passed through the Earth’s atmosphere around 11pm, making it particularly visible.
Most bolides go undetected because they appear either during the day when the light of the sun makes the unnoticeable. They also go undetected when they appear over oceans or uninhabited areas. When they do appear to the human eye, they can seem a little more alarming and mistaken as rare.
For those interested in catching more bolides, they can be seen more readily through a telescope than with the naked eye.
The bolide is reported to have been moving toward the sea from Anna Maria Island. It was about the size of baseball and moving at 40,000 miles per hour. It began its journey near the Gulf of Mexico and about 8 miles from Sarasota, Florida.
Its brightness is categorized as more luminescent than the planet Venus, which is partly what made it so noticeable to us Earth-dwellers.
Though the fireball was mostly seen in Florida, residents as far away as Alabama and Georgia also report bearing witness to the soaring object.