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Wednesday, February 16, 2011 4:17 AM

Giant fireball possibly a meteor sighted over East Coast

By Carl Bagh

A fireball that streaked through the skies over East Coast which was described by viewers as the size of a "Cessna plane" and one of "the biggest, brightest, and most colorful ever!", could have been a passing meteor.

FoxNews reported that the sighting occurred before 12:45 p.m ET. The sighting was reported over New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey.

The numerous reports of the fireball sighting started during the daytime, an unusual phenomenon as most of the meteor sightings are reported during the night.

Philly.com quoted NASA scientist Bill Cooke of the Marshall Space Flight Center as stating that the object seen might have been 5 feet in diameter and would have weighed more than 5 metric tons, basing the measurements on the reports of the brightness of the object. Cooke also estimates that the object was traveling at a speed of 33,500 m.p.h.

Cooke further estimated that the fireball's energy was equivalent to about 100 tons of TNT and was capable of producing a crater 125 feet wide and 15 feet deep on impact.

The American Meteor Society's Fireball Sightings Log cites reactions of people who sighted the fireball around 12:45 EST.

Ken Ehleiter, Bentonville, AR described the sighting as "At first when I seen it I thought it was a small Cessna plane flying over."

"Sharon," of Paramus, N.J.: "The speed at which it appeared and disappeared was... remarkable. One second it was high in the sky and in the next it was on the horizon. It was a ball of fire with a white glowing train."

Diane Collins, of Tabernacle, N.J., said, "Having seen many "shooting stars" in the past at... night, this sighting was impressive in the brightness and size of the flash."

Brendan Davey, New York, N.Y., described the sighting as: "It fluxed all the colors of the rainbow akin to an ... oil sheen on water. It was moving at breakneck speed. It never made a sound and if you weren't looking you wouldn't have known about it."

One witness said, "It was extremely bright. it seemed to be coming in at a downward angle and to be completely honest I thought someone had shot a missile at us but missiles are loud. There was no train left behind and I mean absolutely nothing. I don't want to sound weird but it looked magical."

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