Planetarium manager discusses last night’s meteor sighting over St. Louis

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ST. LOUIS – They keep their eyes on the night sky at the St. Louis Science Center for things that enter our atmosphere.

“We’ve got something really unique here – a Martian meteorite,” said Will Snyder, manager of the James S. McDonnell Planetarium at the St. Louis Science Center. “Which means it’s basically a piece of Mars which got chipped off from a collision at one point and made its way back down to Earth.”

On Monday evening, cameras caught what appeared to be a fireball finding its way into our atmosphere, traveling east to west across the sky.

“Last night, we had a great example of a bolide meteor and that sounds pretty technical but you might have heard it called ‘a fireball’ or some people might say ‘a shooting star.’ We’re all talking about the same thing in a lot of ways…But a Bolide (meteor), it is a really bright one, maybe it lasts a little longer. And it’s usually caused by a bigger piece of debris coming through the Earth’s atmosphere.”

There was a sonic boom that came with the sight of the soaring meteor across a St. Louis sky.

And as for asteroid prospectors hoping to find a fragment somewhere in the Show Me State? Snyder says you’re probably out of luck.

“Because when you see that bright flash, maybe you heard the boom. You think that had to be something huge up in the sky. Really, we’re talking something for pretty small. Loose meteors or shooting stars that you see are just barely a speck of dust. Little, tiny pieces of debris left in space from a comet or an asteroid passing through our atmosphere with something like we saw last night, a little bit larger to cause that big fireball. Maybe even something that would fit on the palm of my hand, so we’re still talking something pretty small.”

But there is a chance to keep your eyes open looking up in November.

“So while we are expecting a big burst coming up on November 21, you won’t see those big fireballs with it very likely, but you’ll see lots of shooting stars that we can look forward to seeing,” Snyder said.

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