Brian Chabue and Dane Scholl were enjoying cigars and the night sky in the Gainesville countryside Monday when a green fireball shot through the sky and exploded like a firework.
The explosion was so bright it lit up the Earth and night sky shortly before 10 p.m., Chabue said.
Although the 29-year-old accountant didn’t realize it at the time, he had just witnessed the tail end of the Taurid and the start of the Leonid meteor showers — a phenomenon that’s been seen worldwide.
While the Taurid meteor shower is an annual event, Santa Fe College Planetarium Coordinator James Albury said there has been an increase in sightings this year because there’s no bright light from the moon outshining the meteors.
"Some years are better than others because of the moon," Albury said. "The moon is just in a good position right now that it’s not washing out anything."
He said the Taurid meteor shower is known for its bright fireballs, which are meteors that glow and even explode if they get close enough to the ground.
Chabue said the meteor exploded in an illuminating flash and then fizzled out. He thought it was a firework at first, but ruled out that explanation because initially there was no sound. But then came two booms that reverberated throughout the air, he said.
"It was really something to see," Chabue said, adding he’s never seen anything like it in Gainesville before. On a thread Chabue posted to reddit, other users claimed to have heard and seen similar phenomenon in and near Gainesville.
Archer resident Liz Schreiber wrote in an email she too has heard and seen similar occurrences at her home in the countryside west of Gainesville.
The 37-year-old said she’s used to hearing loud noises — gunshots, fireworks — but the booming is "of a different quality."
"It sounded very deep and powerful, almost subsonic. I could feel the vibrations coming through the Earth," she said.