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National Briefing / Texas

Fireball probably wasn't wreckage

February 17, 2009|Times Wire Reports

The fireball that streaked across the sky and alarmed numerous Texas residents was likely just a big meteor and not wreckage from colliding satellites, experts said.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig said the fireball seen across a wide stretch of the state Sunday morning probably was a natural phenomenon and not debris from last week's collision between an Iridium communications satellite and a Russian military space vehicle.

Preston Starr, observatory manager at the University of North Texas, said it was probably a meteor about the size of a pickup with the consistency of a chunk of concrete.

Starr said the object's trajectory was wrong for it to have been satellite debris. And he said such objects would be too small and moving too slowly to produce a flare so widely visible during the day.

Starr said objects as large as his estimate for the one spotted Sunday enter the atmosphere about eight or 10 times a year.

It was probably moving between 15,000 and 40,000 mph, he said.

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