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Fireball captured passing ‘exceptionally close’ to Earth

Well, that was too close for comfort. 

A fireball that streaked across the sky Monday was so close to Earth that the American Meteor Society received 259 reports and nine videos of its celestial sprint. In Grand Bahama, residents didn’t only see it, but heard a sonic boom, the Guardian reported. 

CBS12 reporter Jay O’Brien was recording a Facebook live story for the local news outlet when he saw it race through the heavens and seemingly disappear into a blaze of blue.

“WOAH! Big flash and streak across sky in West Palm Beach. Happened moments ago while we were on Facebook Live,” he tweeted. “Working to figure out what it was.” 

NASA astronomer Bill Cooke told the Palm Beach Post, it was a nearly 900-pound asteroid fragment entering Earth’s atmosphere at 38,000 mph and disintegrating 23 miles above the Atlantic. In the process of breaking apart, Cooke said, the meteor generated the energy equivalent of 14 tons of TNT. 

“These things just come at random,” Cooke added. “The atmosphere will break apart anything smaller than a football field.” 

Meteor experts refer to Monday’s fireball — which was documented by countless dashcams and doorbell cameras — as a “bolide,” referring to the fact that it explodes upon entry to Earth’s atmosphere. Gianluca Masi, of VirtualTelescope.eu, told the publication it passed 12,430 miles from Earth’s surface, which is considered “exceptionally close.” 

“This is a special type of fireball that ends with a large burst of light and often a boom sound,” Mike Hankey, American Meteor Society operations manager, told the Palm Beach Post.  

This particular one was actually quite small — about 2 feet in diameter — meaning it technically does not qualify as an asteroid, but rather only an asteroid fragment, or meteoroid.