'Most impressive fireball I have ever witnessed:' Witnesses dazzled by Mid-Atlantic meteor

A blazing fireball flew Sunday night across the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, dazzling hundreds of eyewitnesses who reported the sighting to the American Meteor Society.

It's likely the meteor first became visible at about 9:20 p.m. local time 47 miles above the Maryland town of Forest Hill as it streaked northwest across the sky at 36,000 miles per hour, according to the NASA Meteor Facebook page. The meteor, which was bright enough for NASA to refer to it as a fireball, eventually disintegrated 22 miles above Pennsylvania in Gnatstown, a town south of Harrisburg.

Hundreds report sighting

In this file photo from Aug. 12, a meteor is caught as a blurred line in an eight-second exposure of the Milky Way over Abilene State Park, Texas.
In this file photo from Aug. 12, a meteor is caught as a blurred line in an eight-second exposure of the Milky Way over Abilene State Park, Texas.

During its brief journey, the space rock achieved a brightness equal to that of a quarter Moon, captivating people across the region who pulled out their phones to capture the object as it traveled just over 55 miles through the atmosphere.

According to NASA, hundreds reported seeing the object to the American Meteor Society, which encourages witnesses to post reports of meteors on its website.

"This was the most impressive fireball I have ever witnessed in all of my life," one 62-year-old man from Pennsylvania wrote in his report.

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Fireball captivates people on social media

Many others expressed equal astonishment on social media.

Videos from cellphones and doorbell security cameras shared online showed a fireball illuminating the night sky with a greenish glow and what appears to be a tail.

Baltimore meteorologist Justin Burk shared a compilation of videos on X, formerly Twitter. In one video, a woman can be heard exclaiming, "What is that?!," to which a man replies, "I don't know, but I got it!"

What are fireballs?

Fireballs are even bigger and brighter than regular meteors, which is why they are easily spotted from the ground, according to NASA.

For instance, one was spotted just last week dashing across the Colorado night sky to the astonishment of many people who reported the sighting.

Objects causing fireballs are not typically large enough to survive passage through the Earth’s atmosphere, although fragments, or meteorites, are sometimes recovered on the ground. In this case, NASA said the data suggests the object producing the meteor was a small fragment of an asteroid, 6 inches or so in diameter, that likely originated in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Eric Lagatta covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Reach him at elagatta@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bright fireball dazzles hundreds across Mid-Atlantic: Watch now