There was something in the air Sunday night. Exactly what it was is up for debate.
Just before 7 p.m., the Collier County Sheriff’s Office received reports from two callers near the 67 mile marker of Alligator Alley who said they saw a bright light in the sky, according to a dispatcher. One of the callers thought it was a flare, while the other thought it was a meteor, the dispatcher said.
Deputies who responded to the calls didn’t find anything.
“I think one of the things that’s happening now is the sky is clear and the visibility is very good,” said Charlie Paxton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tampa. “Alligator Alley, off to the side, away from the lights, is very dark. So being in a dark area or darker area, (meteors) will show up much more vividly. Particularly without the clouds or any noticable haze in the air.”
East coast media also reported calls about “lights in the sky” around 7:30 p.m. Sunday. A U.S. Coast Guard official told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that they had been receiving reports of a possible meteor shower.
The reports came just days after a meteor exploded over Russia’s Urals region, damaging buildings and injuring about 1,000 people. And on Friday a 150-foot asteroid passed by Earth, coming within about 17,150 miles.
All the recent activity is likely a coincidence, said Brian Risley, president of the Southwest Florida Astronomical Society. Meteors fall in the atmosphere all the time, he said.
“Most meteors burn up anywhere from 60 miles up down to about 30 miles up, depending on how fast they’re coming in,” Risley said. “It’s just a matter of timing more than anything right now.”
Risley said this time of year is actually not usually a particularly active time for meteor showers.
“There may be some minor ones going on, but not major ones,” he said. “We get more meteor showers during the summer, fall into winter. From about mid-July to the first of the year is when we have most of the meteor showers that occur.
“Most of the stuff that you see in a meteor shower is the size of a grain of sand.”