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Red fireball with 'glowing white train' reported over NC, Virginia. What was it?

Fireballs are pieces of an asteroid burning up in the sky, according to the American Meteor Society.
Fireballs are pieces of an asteroid burning up in the sky, according to the American Meteor Society.

A red fireball with a “glowing white train” shot over eastern North Carolina and Virginia at 11:40 p.m. Tuesday, according to multiple reports filed with the American Meteorological Society.

Most of the reports came from cities along the North Carolina coast.

However, observers in Virginia apparently had the best views, with one witness describing the image as a “glowing white train behind the primary orange and red fireball.”

“The brightest and most amazing fireball I've ever seen,” said a report attributed to Chase K. “Extremely bright flash as it appeared, night sky appeared like giant lightning strike and almost daylight when meteor burst into vision…Ended with perfect split to two smaller fragments until dissipated.”

Two reports said the fireball was accompanied by noises, including someone in Falmouth, Virginia, who reported a “loud explosion.”

Sonic booms and “electrophonic sounds” are the two sounds most commonly associated with falling meteors, reports the American Meteorological Society. In some instances, the fireballs end by exploding in a “bright terminal flash. . .with visible fragmentation,” says the society.

Mike Austin posted video on YouTube of a meteor sailing through the sky during part of his commute Tuesday night. He wrote that he "didn't hear any loud sounds" during his drive on I-75 Northbound between Troy and Bloomfield Hills in Detroit. NWS

A 911 call center in King George County, Virginia, received a large number of calls about the fireball Tuesday, reported the Richmond Times-Disptatch.

A spokesman at the U.S. Army’s Fort A.P. Hill training center in Bowling Green, Virginia, told the Times-Dispatch the fireball “may have been a meteor.”

However, one witness in North Carolina kept an open mind in his report on the meteorological society’s website: “I was driving east on I-40,” said Thomas Burwell’s report. “Myself and my front passenger saw it and thought it was a meteor or UFO.”

The Geminid meteor shower will put on a dazzling show for skywatchers when it peaks overnight on Dec. 13-14. The Geminids are active every December, when Earth passes through a massive trail of dusty debris shed by a weird, rocky object named 3200

Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs