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Planetarium manager weighs in on meteor shower over North Carolina

The bright light puzzled some residents and left others wondering what the mysterious object was as it vanished over Edgecombe County
Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 10:32 PM EST
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SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA, N.C. (WECT) - Spectators watched in awe Wednesday as a fireball meteor lit up the North Carolina sky just minutes after a launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The bright light puzzled some residents and left others wondering what the mysterious object was as it vanished over Edgecombe County.

[Fireball meteor lights up NC sky during SpaceX launch]

Katherine Hunt, planetarium manager at The Ingram Planetarium in Sunset Beach, says the fireball was likely from the North Taurid meteor shower, which happens over North Carolina this time of year.

“We are in the peak week for the Taurid meteor shower,” said Hunt. “A meteor shower is when you’re more likely to see meteors. However, meteors can happen at any point in time.”

Hunt says the fireball seen Wednesday night was a larger piece of debris, which can be very colorful when it explodes as it enters the atmosphere. She said it was green as it disintegrated.

“It’s not rare, but it’s not common either,” said Hunt. “These really bright ones happen thousands of times each meteor shower. However, they may happen out in the ocean where you don’t see them, they happen during the day when the sun blocks them out; so, it’s really hard to narrow down exactly when or where you’ll see one.”

According to Hunt, the best time of night to witness this year’s Taurid meteor shower is in the early hours of the morning, since the moon is relatively large in its first-quarter phase.

Hunt says those on the ground are likely safe from danger during a meteor shower.

“It is very rare for a meteor to be a danger,” Hunt said. “We have had, in the last several decades, all the way back into the 20th century, we’ve had only one person actually get hit by one. And they lived to tell the tale, they had a pretty bad bruise at the end of it. So they are very rare.”

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