Pieces of “fireball” that exploded over Mississippi found on ground

Days after a streaking fireball was spotted in the skies over three Southern states, NASA scientists have confirmed that fragments from the meteor have been found on the ground in Mississippi.

NASA said the exceptionally bright meteor was going 35,000 mph (scientists previously estimated it was traveling at 55,000 mph) when it exploded in the sky near the Louisiana-Mississippi border.

“There are confirmed reports of meteorites being found in the area east of Natchez,” NASA said, while sharing an image of one of the meteorite pieces in a Facebook post on Monday.

Dozens of people in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi reported seeing the meteor in the sky around 8 am Wednesday after hearing loud booms in the area.

At its peak, the fireball was more than 10 times brighter than a full moon, officials said. The fireball disintegrated approximately 34 miles above a swampy area in Louisiana, generating “an energy equivalent of 3 tons of TNT,” NASA said.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency previously posted a satellite image on Facebook in which the bright object can be seen just east of the Louisiana-Mississippi border, along with NASA’s confirmation. The agency said the fireball caused no injuries or property damage and that it ran parallel to the Mississippi River.

Image from the GOES 16 satellite shows the fireball just east of the Louisiana border. / Credit: NOAA

Law dictates that meteorites belong to the owner of the property on which they fell, so NASA said it would not disclose the locations of any fragments that are found.

NASA also said it would not authenticate any possible meteorite discoveries and referred the public to a meteorite website hosted by Washington University in St. Louis.

“We are not meteorite people, as our main focus is protecting spacecraft and astronauts from meteoroids,” NASA said. So we will be unable to identify any strange rocks you may find – please do not send us rock photos.”

NASA said that if confirmed, this will mark the fifth recorded meteorite fall in Mississippi. The others happened in 1854, 1910, 1922 and 2012.

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