Watch: Bright Fireball Meteor Explodes Over U.S.

NASA cameras capture dramatic light show over Pennsylvania.

People in parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York were startled early Tuesday morning by a bright light and explosion in the sky.

"It lit up the sky (and all the snow of course) bright blue," Pennsylvania resident Karen Rayner Bierbauer wrote on Facebook. "Very neat."

The celestial show was caused by a 500-pound (225-kilogram) meteor going 45,000 miles (72,000 kilometers) per hour over western Pennsylvania, according to NASA.

The meteor was probably about two feet in diameter (less than one meter), though it flared brighter than the full moon as it burned up in Earth's atmosphere, NASA reports. Such bright meteors are often called fireballs.

The event was captured at about 4:50 a.m. local time on three NASA Meteor Watch cameras, including the video above from a camera at Allegheny Observatory near Pittsburgh. The other two cameras were at Hiram College and Oberlin College, both in northern Ohio.

The American Meteor Society received more than a hundred reports of sightings of the meteor from eyewitnesses spread across several states.

The Earth is constantly being bombarded by debris from comets, asteroids, and even other rocky planets in the solar system. When the larger pieces burn up, they are seen as "shooting stars" or occasionally as fireballs. (See a photo of a fireball over Banff, in Alberta, Canada.)

Fireballs are fairly rare, but when they do occur, they make "quite a spectacular sight for observers," Raminder Singh Samra, resident astronomer at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver, Canada, previously told National Geographic.

Follow Brian Clark Howard on Twitter and Google+.

Read This Next

Can science help personalize your diet?
Hogs are running wild in the U.S.—and spreading disease
Salman Rushdie on the timeless beauty of the Taj Mahal

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet