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Kansans witness early morning meteor

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, March 13, 2012, at 5:16 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, March 13, 2012, at 5:24 p.m.

A flash of light in the early morning sky over the Great Plains on Tuesday lit up social media and cyberspace as witnesses tried to figure out what they had seen.

“It was like the whole sky lit up for just a second,” Joe Kleinsasser said in an e-mail about what he saw as he drove from Hillsboro to work at Wichita State University at about 6:45 a.m.

More than 50 people in five states — Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Nebraska and Missouri — reported the flash to the Lunar Meteorite Hunters website on Tuesday:

Bob Henry, program director at the Wichita State University Lake Afton Observatory, said the light appears to have been a meteor about the size of a baseball.

“Something that size is going to be very, very bright and very, very noticeable,” Henry said.

Based on a detailed description he was given, Henry said, the meteor was traveling north to south about 20 degrees to the north of the moon at about the same elevation as the moon. It had a greenish blue tint before it broke up.

“They actually happen a lot more often than we realize,” Henry said. “Half the time, it’s light outside so we don’t see them.”

The earth is hit by meteorites more than 100 times a day, he said. Only a few are noticed by humans, however, because of daylight, cloudy skies or they happen over the ocean or when people are asleep.

Derek Pinkston captured video of the meteor on a surveillance video in Haysville and posted it on YouTube.

“Thought it was pretty cool, but wish I would have captured the trail,” he wrote on Twitter in response to a question.

Henry said witnesses to the meteor should feel fortunate.

“For a meteor to get noticed by humans takes unusually good luck,” he said by e-mail.

Stan Finger can be reached at 316-268-6437 or at sfinger@wichitaeagle.com.

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