Reuters reported that an apparent meteor streaked across the sky and slammed to earth near the Texas border city of El Paso on Thursday, October 9, 1997, sparking hundreds of calls to police as flashes and loud sonic booms scared residents.
"I saw a large flash like an explosion in the sky," said Steven Marquez, who was in his yard near the Organ Mountains outside Las Cruces, New Mexico, about 50 miles northwest of El Paso.
Las Cruces Police Sgt. Joel Cano said the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) tracked the object as it entered Earth's atmosphere until it fell to the ground about 30 miles east of El Paso.
A police command post was set up near the Organ Mountains as U.S. Army Reserve helicopters used infrared sensors to look for pieces of debris from the object.
The Associated Press said the meteor appeared at 12:47 p.m. as a streak about as bright as the surface of a setting sun, according to Robert Simpson, a spokesman for the University of Texas' McDonald Observatory.
"It was like a chunk of the sun had fallen off and was heading toward the Earth. It might be golf-ball size or larger," said Simpson, who saw it from his home near Fort Davis, 175 miles southeast of El Paso.
A police helicopter flying about 25 miles east of El Paso spotted about an acre of scorched land that authorities believe might be the area where the meteor hit, police spokesman Bill Pfeil said.
"It shook the whole damn neighborhood," said Tom Tyra, a Horizon City resident. "Everybody came out of their house."
Local El Paso station KVIA quoted Dr. Harold Slusher, Professor of Physics at the University of Texas at El Paso: "I'd say off-hand... that it's the explosion of a daytime meteor or a swarm of meteoric objects, small objects made of rock and metal, that penetrate the atmosphere." According to Dr. Slusher, such highly visible traces of daytime meteoric activity are extremely rare.
Original file name: CNI - Meteor Near El Paso.final
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