A strange thing happened over the weekend in Texas. Last Sunday morning in broad daylight, a fireball appeared in the sky over Austin. Apparently, it was also visible over Houston but no one I know saw anything. People were both scared and thrilled to spot the unusual phenomenon that was "competing" with the sun, as one man observed.
From Dallas to Austin and beyond, sightings were reported of a red and orange fireball with a small black center speeding toward Earth before burning out in a trail of lingering white smoke.
Roland Herwig, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration’s southwest division, said the fireball was probably superheated debris from a broken satellite falling to Earth.
The FAA could not directly link the debris to the reported collision last week of Russian and U.S. communications satellites, however.
“It’s yet to be proved it’s those satellites,” Herwig said.
However, a spokeswoman for U.S. Strategic Command said the fireball spotted in the Texas skies Sunday was unrelated to the satellite collision.
Now the Federal Aviation Administration has declared that the object over Austin was an IFO (Identified Flying Object) and not UFO. Moreover it was a natural phenomenon and not the result of any activity by sentient beings, earthly or extra-terrestrial.
The fireball that blazed across the Texas sky and sparked numerous weekend calls to police agencies now can be considered an identified flying object.
The Federal Aviation Administration said today the fireball was a natural phenomenon — not flying space junk — and a North Texas astronomer said it probably was a meteor about the size of a pickup truck, with the consistency of concrete.
The FAA backed off its weekend statement that the fireball might have been caused by falling debris plummeting into Earth’s atmosphere after Tuesday's collision of two satellites from the United States and Russia.
The FAA fielded calls from across Texas on Sunday morning with sightings of a fireball in the sky. Callers also reported hearing an explosion, probably a sonic boom caused by an object moving faster than the speed of sound, said Roland Herwig, an FAA spokesman.
A chief of staff for Mayor Bill White, Michael Moore, said a blindingly bright flash made its way across his windshield in a matter of seconds. It seemed nearby, but Moore realized it had to be closer to heaven than Earth to appear so clearly in the morning sky.
“It’s hard to compete with the sun,” said Moore.
Moore was just leaving Austin when he saw the bright blip in the sky around 11 a.m. He assumed it was an unusually large meteor.