A Mysterious Flaming Ball Lit Up Washington's Skies And The Internet Tried To Solve It

Security footage from Fox Island shows the bolide brightening the sky off the Washington coast. Q13

A fireball the size of a minivan lit up the skies off of Washington State. Naturally, people took to the Internet to solve the mystery. 

Theories ranged from alien-invasions to a divebombing flock of seagulls. Yes, someone even suggested Megatron was returning to Earth.

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Then we've got the typical Russian conspiracist.

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Hundreds of people reported a loud boom and a flash in the sky on March 7 around 7 p.m. local time, reported local news station Q13Fox. Emergency management teams followed the incident but were not sure what it was. 

"The WA State Duty Officer contacted the FAA and the Western Air Defense Sector and was told they had no problems," Grays Harbor Emergency Managment said in a statement. "There was NO earthquake. There are no reports of explosions or crashes on the ground. We will continue our investigation of the incident and will forward any information we receive."

Scientists soon solved the mystery: it was a meteor. But not just any meteor. 

"Really large meteors are called fireballs," Dr. Marc Fries with the NASA Johnson Space Center told the news station. "Really large fireballs are called bolides. This was a bolide."

What they saw was a superluminous fireball. Technically, a fireball is just another term for a very bright meteor around the same magnitude of the planet Venus. A bolide, on the other hand, is a special type of fireball that explodes as it enters Earth's atmosphere. 

Every year, thousands of fireballs enter into the Earth's atmosphere. NASA even has a handy map tracking fireballs that have been recorded since 1988. Most of these happen over oceans and uninhabited regions or during daylight, making it a rare sight to see. 

But, the brighter the fireball the rarer it is. According to the American Meteor Society, a general rule of thumb says there are only about one-third as many fireballs present for each successively brighter magnitude

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Seattle's National Weather Service wanted to remind Washingtonians that in the grand scheme of things a massive, flaming, hurling hunk of rock really isn't that big of a deal.

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Think you saw a fireball? The International Meteor Organization asks that you report them, just be sure you're not recording anything that lasted for more than 30 seconds or any blinking lights that are crossing the sky. A fireball is often a once-in-a-lifetime event and looks like a shooting star. 

In case you missed it, you can view this security footage from Fox Island located about 8 kilometers (5 miles) offshore. 

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