It’s Raining Fiery Rocks!

You can’t make this stuff up! In addition to California’s usual terrifying hazards — earthquakes, mudslides, wildfires and Real Housewives — we can add fireballs!

No, not some runaway CGI from a Michael Bay giant-robot crapfest, this was a genuine fireball falling out of the sky. As in, a giant rock from outer space that ignited due to ram pressure with our atmosphere. (It’s not friction that heats a meteor and makes it glow; the real culprit is the pressure exerted by atmospheric gases piling up in front of it and creating drag!)

It all happened this past Sunday, when a hunk of stone streaked through the clear blue sky over Nevada and California before exploding over Central Valley with a force equivalent to a five-kiloton bomb! Luckily for those of us who don’t live in the Golden State, the so-called fireball was captured in a NASA photograph. (Click it for a bigger view)

If you’re wondering why it was called a fireball instead of just a plain old meteor, the International Astronomical Union defines a fireball as “a meteor brighter than any of the planets.” Since this one was clearly visible in daylight, it was a hell of a lot brighter than any planet. Astronomers also toss around the word bolide to describe an especially bright fireball or one that generates audible sounds. Or one that explodes!

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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