Originally Published: September 15, 2011 3:22 p.m.
Pam Shipley was amazed by what she saw through her large picture window Wednesday night while watching TV."I said to my husband, 'Look! Look! Look!' because he was engrossed in 'America's Got Talent'," Shipley related.Her husband didn't look in time, but Pam got an eyeful.A meteor was zipping through the sky from the west and disappeared behind Granite Mountain at about 7:45 p.m., perfectly framed by her 5-by-5-foot window in the Mint Creek Ranch subdivision northwest of Prescott."I'm 55 years old and I've never seen anything like that in my life," Shipley said. "It was freaky."The meteor was about 100 times bigger than any shooting star she's ever seen, Shipley related. It was bright white with a bluish-green glow, and it had a long mostly white tail.The meteor was visible throughout the Southwest, from Southern California to Arizona to Las Vegas, according to a news release from NASA's Near-Earth Object Program at its Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena."We're virtually certain this bright display was caused by a meteor, probably the size of a baseball or basketball, that burned up in Earth's atmosphere," Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Program, stated in the news release. "It appeared much larger because of the heated and glowing atmosphere along its path."Eyewitnesses described seeing brilliant colors of blue, green and orange, the release stated. The blue or green colors indicate the meteor contained nickel or magnesium, while orange signaled the meteor was traveling relatively slowly for a meteor but still moving a few miles per second.A meteor is a small fragment of an asteroid. Thousands of these fireballs enter Earth's atmosphere every week, but usually over the ocean or a sparsely populated area, and daylight often obstructs the view. Only a handful of meteorites are seen landing each year, according to the American Meteor Society.The timing and location of this meteor was perfect for viewing, JPL spokesperson Veronica McGregor noted.Observatories didn't track where the meteor landed, and by then it probably consisted of small pebbles, McGregor told The Daily Courier. She didn't know of any photos but did find a short video at youtube.com/user/hmu4c.A meteor two meters in diameter called TC3 was the first to be spotted before entering Earth's atmosphere and landing in Somalia in 2008. University of Arizona astronomers were the first to discover it in the sky, and people found meteorite fragments on the ground.
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