News & Politics

No, That Wasn’t a UFO Over Northern Virginia This Morning

The fireball in the sky was scary, but not alien per se.


Tuesday night, it felt like the world was ending. On Wednesday morning, it looked like it. People on Reddit reported witnessing what they thought was a UFO lighting up the sky above Northern Virginia. No need to fear extraterrestrials, though: Turns out it was a massive meteor shooting across the country early this morning, merely hours after the black hole that was the presidential debate.

“Please tell me someone else saw a UFO while driving on 7 to Leesburg this morning at 6:30 AM,” wrote “RDMLCrunch” on Reddit. “I’m not joking I swear to god. It glowed red for a few seconds, then with a blue tail like a torch it shot forward at a cartoonish speed and was just gone. I just want to know that someone else saw it, this is legit fucking with my brain right now.”

Not a bad description, since this is what fireball actually looked like:

The American Meteor Society, which researches all meteor-related activity, reported receiving hundreds of reports on the great bright ball of fire from DC, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and elsewhere. It was likely from the annual Southern Taurids meteor shower, which is active this time of year. Basically, the meteors are flaming masses of dust and debris from a comet. (Earth is just orbiting into that mess, so we’re seeing the light show as a result.) In this case, the Taurids label indicates that the fireball comes from Encke’s Comet.

Oh and those comet particles? They’re called fireballs because they’re literally planet-size. Comparable to Venus, specifically. Nothing to see here, this is totally normal but yes it does look like the sky is falling.

Rosa is a senior editor at Bitch Magazine. She’s written for Washingtonian and Smithsonian magazine.