‘Fireball’ seen in Northern New Mexico last week was rare piece of asteroid

New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Local experts say they’re still searching for the ‘fireball’ people saw streaking across Northern New Mexico. Carl Agee, director of the University of New Mexico’s Institute of Meteoritics, says what many saw last week is actually a chunk of asteroid that broke off.

“That’s an exciting and unusual event. Doesn’t happen every night, obviously. but it’s not uncommon, it’s not unheard of,” said Agee. “It’s a chunk of an asteroid that has ended up crossing the earth’s orbit, it falls down through the earth’s atmosphere, it starts to burn up from frictional heating and that’s what makes it very bright.”

Last week, it made it through the earth’s atmosphere and was spotted in Colorado and New Mexico. Agee says so far, it was last seen near Springer. “It’s not something that happens every day, it’s pretty unusual,” said Agee. “I’d say maybe once every 10 years there might be something if you’re lucky.”

Agee says the fireball is not to be confused with two meteor showers — or “shooting stars” that can be seen at night through mid-August. The Alpha Capricornids are active from July 3 and last through Aug. 15 while the Southern Delta Aquariids are active from July 12 through Aug. 23.

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