Fireball Streaks Across Night Sky Above St. Louis As Northern Taurid Meteor Shower Peaks

A fireball has been seen streaking across the night sky above St. Louis, Missouri, on one of the peak nights for the Northern Taurid meteor shower.

Several reports have emerged of residents in the area witnessing a bright flash of light and hearing a loud bang at around 8:55 p.m. local time on Monday, KMOV reported.

St. Louis City Scanner Traffic said it had received multiple reports of a "bright light and boom" from Troy all the way to St. Peters.

Furthermore, the incident was also captured by a handful of webcams and home security cameras. For example, one Twitter user, David Vergel, was watching a live stream of the city's famous Gateway Arch when he spotted the fireball—essentially, a very bright meteor.

"I was watching an @EarthCam camera from St. Louis, Missouri about 30 minutes ago and saw a #meteor!" Vergel wrote in a post.

The fireball fell towards Earth as the Northern Taurid meteor shower was peaking. Meanwhile, its cousin, the Southern Taurids, is also active. According to the American Meteor Society, when the two showers are active simultaneously, there is sometimes a notable increase in fireball activity.

Despite being rich in fireballs, the Taurids produce relatively few meteors—around five per hour—so the chances of actually seeing one in an area with light pollution are relatively low, Gizmodo reported. Fortunately, for those in the St. Louis area, there were good viewing conditions on Monday night.

I was watching an @EarthCam camera from St. Louis, Missouri about 30 minutes ago and saw a #meteor!

— David Vergel (@DavidVergel97) November 12, 2019

"If you see a Taurid it can be very brilliant and it'll knock your eyes out, but their rates absolutely suck," NASA's Bill Cooke told "It's simply the fact that when a Taurid appears it's usually big and bright."

Meteor showers are celestial events during which numerous meteors appear in the night sky, originating from what seems like a single location. They occur when the Earth passes through streams of cosmic debris left behind by comets and asteroids.

The Southern Taurids, for example, originate from the Comet Encke while the Northern Taurids come from the asteroid 2004 TG10 (which may be a fragment of Encke itself). They are both named after the constellation Taurus, as that is where they appear to radiate from in the sky.

Meteor flying overhead from east to west in O'Fallon, MO this evening just west of St. Louis. #stlwx #mowx

— Tom Stolze (@ofallonweather) November 12, 2019

Meteors, commonly known as "shooting stars," are the streaks of light we see when small pieces of debris from these asteroids or comets enter the Earth's atmosphere and burn up at extremely high speeds. Before these small pieces enter the atmosphere, they are known as "meteoroids."

Fireballs are unusually bright meteors that exceed a magnitude of -4 when seen by an observer—roughly the same as the planet Venus when it is visible in the morning or evening sky. According to NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), objects that cause fireballs can be larger than one meter (3.2 feet in size.)

Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
Gateway Arch, in St. Louis, Missouri. Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The vast majority of meteors and fireballs burn up before they hit the ground. However, if one does reach the planet's surface it is known as a meteorite. When a fireball explodes they are technically referred to as bolides, although both terms are used interchangeably.

It is not clear whether the fireball above the St. Louis area managed to make it to the ground. However, the local division of the National Weather Service suggested this was unlikely.