BEAVER FALLS (KDKA) – NASA cameras at Allegheny Observatory captured an image of a 45,000-mile-an hour-meteor, which created a fireball in the sky, and startled residents early Tuesday morning in Kittanning.

Brendan Mullen, director of Buhl Planetarium at Carnegie Science Center, says the meteor weighed about 500 pounds before it disintegrated.

KDKA’s Dave Crawley Reports:

“Usually, the whole thing burns up, and that’s what causes shooting stars and things like that. But it’s possible that pieces of this meteor fragmented off, and shattered and scattered all across Kittanning,” he said.

He says it likely emerged from the asteroid belt that circles our solar system, depicted in a planetarium animation.

“A lot of chunks of space rocks and debris are gravitationally tugged out of their orbit within that ring up there, and find their way into the atmospheres of planets,” Mullen said.

The largest event in recorded history is a meteor explosion that levelled trees for miles around in Tonguska, Russia, in 1908. On a much larger scale, the planetarium also simulates the extinction of the dinosaurs.

“There’s a lot of meteoroids out there, a lot of space garbage,” Mullen says. “And a lot of it gets tugged around gravitationally by the planets. And sometimes they get tugged into orbits that intersect the orbits of the planets, like earth.”

That asteroid believed to have killed off the dinosaurs was an estimated six miles across.

“The really dangerous meteors only come around every 50 to 100 million years or so,” the director says.

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