Some Long Islanders were treated to a special Valentine’s Day gift: A fire in the sky that did not involve any unwelcome extraterrestrials.
A meteor was spotted streaking across the sky on Long Island and beyond, although the fate of the earthbound space rock remains unknown. Astronomers confirmed the sighting after Federal Aviation Administration officials cited a lack of falling aircraft debris reports.
“At first thought maybe something exploded,” said Tami Vargas-Megale.
The 38-year-old stay-at-home mom was returning home in Melville after running errands when she witnessed what she described as a “huge white fireball with a blue-green tail” flying overhead in the cloud-free sky at about 12:35 p.m. Monday.
When she realized it was too big to be fireworks, she worried it might be a plane crash. After posting what she saw on Facebook, some questioned her sanity.
“Someone told me it was cupid’s arrow,” she said with a laugh. Then friends on the East End and in Lindenhurst confirmed seeing the path of the meteoroid too, Vargas-Megale said.
“We did get quite a few phone calls from people who saw this brilliant fireball meteor that appeared in the sky,” said Joe Rao, an associate at Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. It was apparently visible across the tri-state area and in Pennsylvania.
“It was probably just some erratic projectile, some lump of cosmic debris—nickel, stone, iron—possibly as large as a softball or a football, not very large but certainly moving at a very high speed across our atmosphere to produce this brilliant light in the sky,” Rao told the Press.
“The reports that we received indicate it was anywhere in brightness from the full moon to as bright as the sun.”
Vargas-Megale described it more like a shooting star—one that seemed so close that it looked like it was about to crash land a few blocks away.
“That’s something I’ll never forget,” she said. “It really was amazing. It’s just cool that I was able to see that. I’ll probably never experience that again.”