NASA"s ARES lab confirms radar signatures that support Saturday's meteor sightings across Washington County and New Brunswick, Canada. This map of the "strewn field" shows where the meteorites may have landed based on radar signatures, scaled from 10kg (red) to 1g (yellow),.Photo courtesy NASA

NASA confirms Washington County meteor sightings, first radar-observed meteor in Maine

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

As first reported Saturday, April 8, around midday, dozens of Washington County residents took to social media to ask, “What just fell from the sky?” As the afternoon went on, people from all over New Brunswick, Canada, and as far east as Knox County said they saw it, too.

“What I saw while driving…looked like a deflated silver Mylar balloon about 10 feet long,” reported Donna-Jean Metta of Machiasport, who was driving between Milbridge and Harrington at the time. “It came down into the trees so fast that I didn't even have time to tell my husband to look at it.”

Reports like these led Downeast Astronomy Club President Charlie Sawyer and UMaine Versant Power Planetarium Director Shawn Laatsch to conclude on Saturday that witnesses had seen a large bolide meteor. 

Sawyer believed simultaneous reports of thunder-like noises and vibrations were related to the meteor, too.

NASA agrees. Its Astromaterials Research & Exploration Science (ARES) division now reports that four radar sweeps record “signatures consistent with falling meteorites seen at the time and location reported by eyewitnesses.”

Saturday’s spectacle is also the first radar-observed meteorite fall in the state of Maine..

According to ARES data, the first appearance of the meteorite signature was picked up by radar at 11:57 a..m. EDT at an altitude of 7,440 meters (4.6 miles) above sea level, supporting Laatsch’s deduction that all the sightings across the county could have been the same event.

“These things take place in the upper atmosphere; you can be quite a distance away and see them,” Laatsch said Saturday.

According to ARES data, meteor sizes could range from a few grams to .7 pounds, although larger masses may have fallen.

“Meteorites in this event fell directly into winds of up to 100 mph, carrying smaller meteorites across the border into Canada,” read the ARES report.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.


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