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Lights on, lights off: Meteor blazes across Phoenix skies

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PHOENIX — Lights flashing across the early morning sky startled plenty of Valley residents and thrilled others Thursday, when a meteor streaked overhead.

The meteor zigzagged across darkened skies around 4 a.m. Homes shook from metro Phoenix to Pinetop-Lakeside.

Ground crews at Sky Harbor Airport saw it, so did John Piersa, who was out for his morning walk near Northern and 35th avenues.

“At first I thought it was a police helicopter shining its spotlight on me,” Piersa, a retired engineer, said.

“It was flickering like you wouldn’t believe. You could see the flames shooting out of it. It was a green, white fireball. It was amazing and lit up the entire sky like daytime.”

The unknown nature of the light created a lot of work for 911 dispatchers, who fielded dozens of calls reporting the flash, sonic booms, sounds of an explosion.

A texter to KTAR speculated that it was an earthquake.

The American Meteor Society had received more than 140 reports of a “fireball event over Arizona,” adding it seen in California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and as far away as Texas.

White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico confirmed it hadn’t launched any missiles.

The Army facility’s launches can be seen across Arizona airspace from time to time. In December 2015, Valley residents could see of the Juno missile as it streaked above.

NORAD also said there had been no launches.

The vapor trail was clearly visible in the northeast Valley.

The Arizona Geological Survey’s seismic network didn’t pick up any impacts.

Michael Conway of the survey says that could mean the meteor broke up in the
sky and that the impacts of any remnants were too small to be recorded.

KTAR’s Jim Cross and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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