Home / Science / What was that flash of light over Spokane Thursday night? A meteor or space debris, experts say

What was that flash of light over Spokane Thursday night? A meteor or space debris, experts say

A bright flash of light captured on many Spokane security cameras Thursday night was likely a small meteor or fireball, area astronomers say.

Flashes of light, seen by many locals and caught on many dashboards and cameras at the door, occurred just before midnight Thursday. Videos posted on the American Meteor Society website show that it disappeared after a few seconds.

David Syphers, an astronomy professor at Eastern Washington University, said Thursday night’s meteor was not something astronomers could predict because it was probably never part of a comet.

Meteor showers are created as the earth passes through a comet̵

7;s path and debris is trapped in the earth’s gravitational field and enters the atmosphere. The next meteor shower, called Perseids, will occur from mid-July to late August, according to NASA’s website. It occurs when the earth passes through residual particles from the comet Swift-Tuttle.

When a single meteor falls, it is usually either human debris from space, such as a satellite, or rock and ice from an asteroid.

He said that Thursday’s meteor was probably a piece of space debris or rock and that it was probably so small that it could not be seen before it entered the Earth’s atmosphere.

“They are caused by such small pieces of stone, metal, ice, we can’t see them until they’re here,” he said.

Laura Hangar / The Talesman-Review

John Benham, an instructor for astrophysics at Gonzaga University and astronomy at Spokane Community College, said he believes the meteor was a small part of the asteroid that may have been part of an asteroid belt.

“Every once in a while, they get lost and find their way to earth,” he said.

If it was an artificial object like a satellite, Benham thinks it would have been split into several parts instead of staying together. It may also have been slower if it was an artificial object.

He said that a very lightning flash meant that meteors mostly broke up, but a trace of the afterword means that a small distance could have landfall, although it would require several observations and an expert to triangulate where it could have fallen.

Benham said meteors can and should be mistaken for UFOS, but are very common and fall worldwide.

“It’s a natural event,” he said.

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