Florida TV reporter Jay O’Brien was midway through a Facebook Live broadcast on Monday night about a senior housing complex when a meteor suddenly shot across the sky.
“Oh my gosh, what is that in the sky? Woah! Okay. Big piece of flash in the sky just then,” he said.
“I don’t know if you saw that. Possibly a piece of space junk burning up in orbit? Sometimes they look like that. I’ll ask around and figure out what that was. That was startling," the CBS12 reporter added during the broadcast before carrying with his initial story.
The meteor rocketed towards earth around 10pm on Monday night. What looked like a fireball streaking across the sky was captured by dashcam and security cameras which were later shared on social media by residents from West Palm Beach to Miami.
Nasa describes asteroids as "small, rocky objects that orbit the Sun”. A meteor takes shape when a meteoroid, which is a smaller chunk of an asteroid or comet, burns up as it enters the atmosphere of the Earth. This is the fireball seen in the sky.
Some speculated that the glowing ball of fire seen on Monday night was an asteroid called 2021 GW4, which was expected to pass close to Earth around that same time.
EarthSky.org wrote on Sunday that 2021 GW4 would "pass extremely close to Earth" on Monday. They added that it would pass just 12,313 miles from Earth and that it was travelling at a speed of 18,706 miles per hour or 8.36 kilometres per second relative to Earth.
Florida meteorologist Zach Covey noted on Twitter that if the fireball in the sky on Monday was 2021 GW4, it passed much closer to our planet than was originally estimated.
He tweeted that the space rock “made its closest approach of 9,300 miles, much closer than the expected 16,000-mile approach forecast. This explains the fireball”.
“To put this in perspective, most close approach asteroids are between 1 and 3 millions million from Earth. 16,000 is an extreme approach. Earth's atmosphere runs roughly 6,200 miles up. It’s possible that this asteroid survived a brush by and didn’t break up upon close entry,” Mr Covey wrote.
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