MISSION, Texas — Several Rio Grande Valley residents took to social media on Feb. 15 after hearing (and feeling) a sonic boom as a meteor entered the atmosphere west of McAllen. NASA said that data showed meteorites did reach the ground.
The meteor was estimated to weigh about 1,000 pounds and was about two feet in diameter, NASA officials said.
"Although meteors tend to hit Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds, they slow as they travel through the atmosphere, breaking into small fragments before hitting the ground," a summary of the event from NASA said. "Meteorites cool rapidly and generally are not a risk to the public."
The American Meteor Society published a photo of a meteorite they said was found in Texas after the fall.
NASA gave a map of where they believe meteorites fell, which is an area off FM 755 just northeast of Rio Grande City. Anyone who believes they find a fragment should contact the Smithsonian, NASA officials said.
"When samples such as the remnants of this event are collected and studied, they enhance our understanding of the origin and evolution of our solar system and our local natural space debris environment," the NASA summary said.
The flash from the meteor was so bright that weather satellites detected it.
The National Weather Service in Brownsville used a lightning-detecting tool, the Geostationary Lightning Mapper, or GLM, to pinpoint the location of the fireball.
"There was no ongoing thunderstorm activity in the Valley but the GLM still detected a signal at around 523 PM CST Feb 15 per the images below," a social media post said.
Valley resident Marcos shared video of the loud boom that was heard as the meteor fell.
So, how should you handle fallen meteorites?
NASA said that it is best not to touch freshly fallen meteorites with your hands as you may damage the rock.
"Oils and microbes from your skin will slowly degrade the surface of a meteorite, dulling the fusion crust, contaminating the meteorite, and promoting rust," NASA reports.
Instead, the handling of meteorites should be done with gloves, tongs, or new aluminum foil. NASA scientists said meteorites should be kept clean and dry and can be wrapped in aluminum foil and sealed in a zip-lock bag to offer it protection from humidity.
Meteorites, which are the fragments of a meteor that survive entry to the atmosphere, are not dangerous to people or animals, scientists said.