It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a … fireball over Oxford Hills

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HEBRON — There wasn’t necessarily smoke on the water, but there was fire in the sky Sunday evening over Hebron and most of Western Maine.

Courtesy of American Meteor Society FIREBALL — The American Meteor Society had 124 reports of a fireball across New England and Canada on Sunday evening. Locally, a man called thinking he saw a plane on fire, but other callers reported a meteor shower at the same time as the airplane report.
Courtesy of American Meteor Society
FIREBALL — The American Meteor Society had 124 reports of a fireball across New England and Canada on Sunday evening. Locally, a man called thinking he saw a plane on fire, but other callers reported a meteor shower at the same time as the airplane report.

A fireball that streaked across the sky alarmed at least one caller, who reported the incident at 5:15 p.m., according to Jim Miclon, director of communications for the Oxford County Regional Communications Center.

“He believes he saw a plane on fire that spiraled down in the area of Hebron Academy,” Miclon said. “We called the [Federal Aviation Administration]. They said they had no planes missing.”

The communications center also reached out to Maine State Police in Gray to see if that barrack had received any reports of a plane on fire, but none were reported, Miclon said. He added FAA traffic control said while there were no planes missing, the organization would investigate.

Later on, Oxford County Sheriff Sgt. Timothy Holland reported other witnesses called in, saying there was a meteor in the area as a meteor shower happened during the time the first call came in, Miclon said.

“That was it. Everybody went home,” Miclon said.

A Norway man witnessed the fiery streak while he was driving north on Route 121 after 5 p.m. on Sunday. Mike Prescott said he “saw an intense meteor descending at a rapid, yet steady pace.”

“At first I thought it was a Roman candle because of the color changes and debris detaching from and trailing off of it. However, because of the trajectory, I quickly realized what it was and would estimate that it traveled a minimum of 90 degrees of the visible sky before dipping below the horizon,” he wrote via email. “I have spent many years observing meteor showers and the night sky, and until witnessing this, I have never seen one so intense.”

The American Meteor Society received 124 reports of a fireball Sunday evening over Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and Quebec and Ontario, Canada. While longtime local amateur astronomist Rick Chase didn’t witness Sunday’s event, he suspects it was a Taurid meteor, which are seen during the end of October and early November, according to the American Meteor Society. He noted it’s been predicted that these meteors will be good this year and so far, so good, as there was a large fireball people caught on camera in Poland.

“These meteors are caused by the Earth running into small particles left behind by Comet Encke. This happens at this time every year, but the November issue of Sky and Telescope says that meteor expert David Asher feels that we will pass through a fairly rich area of them this year,” Chase wrote in an email. “It may take a week or more for the Earth to pass through this debris stream from Comet Encke, so there will likely be more bright meteors in the days to come.”

eplace@sunmediagroup.net