Typically, police dash cams are used to gather evidence during traffic stops. However, a New Jersey police officer accidentally captured something quite spectacular on his: a fireball blazing across the sky.
Sgt. Michael Virga was on patrol when the camera recorded the bright meteor, at 3:09 am on December 2, according to a statement on Facebook posted by the Township of Hamilton Police Department.
“It kind of took me by surprise,” Virga told NJ.com. “I just saw a little blip — it lit up the entire sky like a lime green streak.”
The American Meteor Society (AMS) took to Twitter on December 7 to confirm that what he saw was in fact, a meteor. AMS received reports from 146 people about the fireball event. The society noted it was primarily visible from Pennsylvania, but eyewitness accounts were also reported from twelve other states: New York, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Washington, DC.
Based on the witness reports, AMS estimates the fireball was traveling from the Northeast to Southwest, and ultimately stopped being visible near New Buffalo, PA.
“I could tell how fast it was going and that it was most likely a cometary fireball because of the speed, and then we traced back the path and it intersected with Gemini, which is the parent radiant of the Geminid meteor shower,” Hankey said, ABC reports.
The annual Geminid meteor shower is expected to peak overnight on December 13-14. During this time, you’ll be able to see an average of 60 Geminid meteors per hour, according to NASA, who describes the event as “one of the most prolific and reliable meteor showers of the year.”
Over the Geminid meteor shower’s 200 years of existence, it’s gotten stronger and brighter, the space agency reports. Unfortunately, a supermoon blocked the meteor shower last year, according to Space.com. But, this year there will be a much smaller, crescent moon that should allow the meteors to steal the limelight.
However, light pollution, tall trees, and buildings can still block your view. For the best results, head outside around 2 a.m. local time and use your bare eyes, rather than a telescope or binoculars.
“Find a comfortable spot to lie on the ground, far away from lights and ideally in a dark-sky area. . . Give your eyes about 20-30 minutes to adjust to the dark, then sit back and enjoy the show,” Space.com advises.