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Meteor fires over Northwest

From staff and wire reports

Charlie Dodge of Medford thought someone was out Saturday night playing with fireworks, until he watched the flaming object in the sky speed westward and disappear over the hills.

At first, it looked like somebody was shooting off fireworks just a short distance away, Dodge said. But this thing just kept going and before I knew it, it was gone.

People all the way from Northern California to Washington reported seeing a fireball light up the sky at about 7:45 p.m. Saturday, when officials across the Pacific Northwest were flooded with calls from startled residents wondering what exactly they had witnessed.

Bill and Tari Cruze of Medford were headed home on Interstate 5 a few miles north of Yreka when they saw an object with a florescent-green tail pass through the sky.

It looked like it was right next to us, and it was bigger than the moon, Tari Cruze said. It must have been traveling thousands of miles per hour. It was phenomenal.

— She reported seeing three white flashes after the object passed over some mountains to the west of the freeway.

It looked like it exploded, she said.

Scientists said the fireball was probably a meteor, and that it likely disintegrated before any fragments fell into the Pacific Ocean.

It appears to have come down over the ocean, Dick Pugh of the Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory in Portland told The Associated Press. He said that most reports had the object flying over the Pacific Coast, streaking along from south to north.

Melinda Hutson, another expert at the lab, said meteors large enough to turn into fireballs are uncommon. To get a fireball, it has to be a big piece of rock or metal ' most are pieces of asteroids. Every once in a while a piece of the moon or Mars breaks off, she said.

Astronomer Jim Todd, planetarium director of the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, told The Associated Press that if the object had entered the atmosphere during the daytime, it may not even have been noticed.

It creates a bright contrast against the night sky, Todd said.

Federal Aviation Administration officials in Renton, Wash., said they fielded several calls from people who saw a green ball of fire with a long tail streak through the sky just before 8 p.m., according to The AP

It sailed right over the mountain, said Mike Ziegler of Central Point, who was driving along North Pacific Highway when he saw the fireball. It was amazing.

According to The AP the last time a meteor reportedly struck anything on the ground in Oregon ' becoming a meteorite ' was in May 1981.

On March 27, 2003, more than 100 tiny chunks of rock from a meteor rained down on houses in Park Forest, Ill., a suburb south of Chicago.

Mail Tribune reporter Jack Moran contributed to this report.