"The camera was facing NE so it did not record the asteroid itself," says Adams. "However, the flash cast very distinct shadows, and landscape colors were vivid."
Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office says this is the brightest fireball detected in the 8-year history of the NASA's All Sky Fireball Network, an array of cameras that monitors fireball activity across the USA. The fact that the explosion blinded most cameras that saw it initially complicated analysts' efforts to pinpoint its nature and origin. Ultimately, however, they were able to draw firm conclusions: The mass of the asteroid was some tens of tons and it exploded with a kinetic energy of approximately 10 kilotons.
"There are no reports of any damage or injuries—just a lot of light and few sonic booms," says Cooke. "If Doppler radar is any indication, there are almost certainly meteorites scattered on the ground north of Tucson."
After the asteroid breakup, the hunt begins for the pieces
For a few fleeting seconds about 3:57 a.m. Thursday, the Arizona sky lit up with a bright flash and loud boom as an asteroid broke apart over Payson. The event could land the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University its "winning lottery ticket," or so its curator hopes.
The center, with what it calls the world's largest university meteorite collection, hopes to be chosen as the institution that gets to analyze and study any recovered pieces from the meteorite that may be found, said Laurence Garvie, the center's curator, on Friday.
Over the past century, pieces from only three meteorites have been recovered in the state, Garvie said.
The first meteorite recovery in Arizona took place in 1912, the second in 1998 and the third in 2009, he said.
This year, Garvie said, pieces from only two meteorites have been recovered in the United States as a whole, one in Florida and one in northern Texas. In 2015, there was only one recovery, in California.
Garvie compared the possibility of being chosen to analyze the recovered meteorite pieces to winning a big lottery drawing among all scientists.
"Yesterday the lottery has been drawn and now they (explorers for the fallen pieces) are going to go out and see who won," Garvie said.
A security system in Arizona caught a brilliant flash of light from an asteroid burning up in the atmosphere. Video Credit: Susanne Campbell-Vincent
Amateurs fan out to find fragments
According to Garvie, most meteorites are hunted by amateurs who have the ability to leave immediately for the landing areas and explore for the pieces.
Once pieces have been recovered, the fragments then will be taken to a scientist or organization of the collectors' choice.
"I would hope they will take it to ASU and come to me to do the analysis, but they can go to any other scientist in the U.S," Garvie said.
There is no guarantee that recovery teams will be able to locate the fallen fragments, he said. But some people familiar with the process don't believe it will be exceptionally difficult.
The freshly fallen meteorite broke apart over the eastern part of the state, where the majority of the rocks are red or brown.
The recovery teams will be looking for black, rounded pieces that will stand out against the native rock, Garvie said.
Doppler radar is also expected to help in the discovery, he said, as it should be able to pinpoint approximately where the meteorite shards may have fallen.
A collection of other-worldly objects
The center at ASU has a growing display of rocks and meteorites from all over, including a piece from the meteorite in northern Texas that center officials plan to add to the exhibit very soon, Garvie said.
“Something like this is exciting for both the collectors and scientists. The pieces could be from Mars, the Asteroid Belt or from the moon.”
The university's collection has more than 1,600 samples of different meteorites. The rocks are preserved and displayed for scientific research and education.
The center's display, which is open to the public, is in the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building on the university's Tempe campus.
Garvie said that while the most recent recoveries have been identified as ordinary chondrites, pieces from one of the most common classes of meteorites, these findings can't be described as anything but extraordinary. Because they aren't of this earth.
"Something like this is exciting for both the collectors and scientists," Garvie said. "The pieces could be from Mars, the Asteroid Belt or from the moon."
Asteroid vs. meteor: What's the difference?
Livescience.com explains many of the details on its website, as does the American Meteor Society. Here are some of the extraterrestrial basics from those two sources:
Asteroid: An asteroid is a rocky object in space that's smaller than a planet. There are millions of asteroids orbiting the sun, some 750,000 of which are found in the Asteroid Belt, a vast ring of asteroids between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
Meteoroid: A general term describing small particles of comets or asteroids that are in orbit around the sun. There's no universally accepted definition (based on size or any other characteristic) that distinguishes a meteoroid from an asteroid — they're simply smaller than asteroids. If remnants of the parent meteoroid survive the trip through the atmosphere to reach the ground, then these remnants are called meteorites.
Meteor: A meteor is an asteroid or meteoroid or other object that burns and vaporizes upon entry into the Earth's atmosphere; meteors are commonly known as "shooting stars." Whenever a meteoroid plows into the Earth’s atmosphere, it will create a brief flash of moving light in the sky.
Meteorite: If a meteor survives the plunge through the atmosphere and lands on the Earth's surface, it's known as a meteorite.
Fireball: A fireball is another term for a very bright meteor, generally brighter than magnitude -4, which is about the same magnitude of the planet Venus in the morning or evening sky.
Quelle: az central