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‘Fireball’ sightings reported in NM, TX

December 24, 2013 • Local News

Several residents witnessed what they believe were meteor fireballs streaking across the clear night sky above New Mexico and west Texas Sunday night, according to reports filed Monday.

Witnesses from Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Vaughn, Roswell, El Paso, Lubbock and Paint Rock filed 12 reports with the American Meteor Society, describing brilliant white, yellow and green explosions and flashes.

The sightings were reported to have occurred between 5:45 and 7 p.m.

Joe Ward, of Roswell, was driving south on Seminole Road with his wife, Amy, when they caught sight of a flash of light above.

“It was definitely a fireball,” Joe Ward said. “If I were outside, I would be very surprised if we didn’t hear an audible sound.”

Ward said he caught about eight seconds of the flash that arched across the sky, when he saw it turn into a yellowish color.

Ward, who has witnessed similar events, said he was surprised to see the object appear so close to the ground.

“My heart did skip on that one. I’ve never seen them come down to eye level. I was expecting to see an explosion on impact,” Ward said. “But as far as direction, it was coming from the east, and headed southwest.”

One observer, Orlando P. in Albuquerque, reported: “It was big and it exploded. It was the biggest one I ever saw.”

Two reports were made on the Mutual UFO Network, one in Santa Fe and one in Taos. Don Burleson, MUFON’s state director in Roswell, said the region has had a number of sightings.

“I’m inclined to say, it’s the same (object),” Burleson said. “You can see them for hundreds of miles.”

MUFON assigned two field investigators to interview the witnesses. The most likely explanation might be that Earth is traveling through the tail of the comet ISON, Burleson said.

ISON fell apart after its brush with the sun last month. But, it is only expected to leave behind a tiny trail of sand grains that might pass through the Earth’s atmosphere in mid-January, according to the NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign’s Karl Battams.

The colors that witnesses have reported could be caused by comet fragments and meteors, Burleson said.

“We know we get hit once in a while. I’m not completely sure it’s the same object (being reported). At least two of the three were,” Burleson said. “It’s kind of exciting anyway.”

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