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Small asteroid becomes fireball, lighting the night sky over Phoenix

By
Ben Hooper
This isn't a sunrise, it's a meteor lighting the dark sky over Arizona at about 4 a.m. on June 2. Screenshot: Ian Schlueter/YouTube
This isn't a sunrise, it's a meteor lighting the dark sky over Arizona at about 4 a.m. on June 2. Screenshot: Ian Schlueter/YouTube

PHOENIX, June 3 (UPI) -- NASA said a fireball that illuminated the night sky in Phoenix and the surrounding area was a small asteroid burning up in the atmosphere at 40,000 mph.

The space agency said the asteroid, estimated at about 5 feet in diameter and a few tons in mass, became a meteor in the atmosphere and the resulting fireball made the night sky temporarily light up as if it was mid-day at about 4 a.m. Thursday.

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The agency said fragments of the asteroid likely survived the plunge to Earth.

"There are no reports of any damage or injuries -- just a lot of light and few sonic booms," said Bill Cooke in NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "If Doppler radar is any indication, there are almost certainly meteorites scattered on the ground north of Tucson."

Phoenix Police Department spokesman Sgt. Jonathan Howard said police received about 60 calls related to the meteor.

"Many of the callers mistakenly believed they were being burglarized due to the accompanying sound created," Howard told CNN.

The Arizona Department of Transportation shared photos on Twitter showing the trail left behind in the sky after the meteor crashed.

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