Caught on camera: Fireball lights up Central Texas sky

A cosmic phenomenon was captured over Central Texas Sunday night. 

A fireball can be seen in multiple videos taken in Hutto, Houston, College Station and Round Rock

"I was looking at some videos earlier today, and I’m like, ‘Whoa,’" said Stella Kafka, an astronomer who serves as the executive director for the American Meteorological Society. "This is a very fantastic and rare phenomenon that some people never witness, so kudos to you all in Texas."

More than 200 reported sightings of this fireball came in from Texas and surrounding states.

"Most of our reports are single observations," said Robert Lunsford with the American Meteor Society.

Space debris is hitting the earth’s atmosphere daily, but meteors, and especially fireballs, are more unique.

"Most of what hits the atmosphere is like a grain of sand," said Anita Cochran, assistant director for research support for UT’s McDonald Observatory. "We get thousands of those a day."

A meteor is a larger piece of an asteroid or comet that burns up as it hits the earth’s atmosphere. A fireball is a meteor that is extra large and extra bright. 

"It has to be as bright as Venus is," said Cochran. "That's sort of the rule of thumb."

The fireball seen Sunday night was especially unique because of its size. Scientists at AMS estimate it was the size of a small car before it entered the atmosphere.

"It takes a very large object to create a flash that bright," said Lunsford.

The fireball is believed to have entered the atmosphere over Cistern, Texas, and have ended its flight just outside of Austin.

Because meteors travel so quickly, at speeds of five to 45 miles per second, pieces rarely make it through the atmosphere, but there is a chance that evidence was left behind.

"There are a couple of reports of sonic booms that indicate that some fragments may have survived the plunge to the atmosphere," said Lunsford. "If that's true, that means there may be a few remnants of this fireball just west of Austin."

Those remnants would be called meteorites.

And for those that spotted the fireball on its way down, Lunsford said it’s pretty lucky.

"Being outside and at the right time, looking in the right direction and then having it happen… if you see one, go buy a lotto ticket."