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He could tell from the lights that it was quite a bit bigger than the other two, and it was a lot faster. He said that there was what looked like a bright green strobe light on the fuselage, and it pulled away from the other two like they were standing still after awhile. It headed out towards the Pacific and finally disappeared from sight. It came from the general direction of Edwards.
Meteoroids enter the earth’s atmosphere at very high speeds, ranging from 11 km/sec to 72 km/sec (25,000 mph to 160,000 mph). However, similar to firing a bullet into water, the meteoroid will rapidly decelerate as it penetrates into increasingly denser portions of the atmosphere. This is especially true in the lower layers, since 90 % of the earth’s atmospheric mass lies below 12 km (7 miles / 39,000 ft) of height. At the same time, the meteoroid will also rapidly lose mass due to ablation. In this process, the outer layer of the meteoroid is continuously vaporized and stripped away due to high speed collision with air molecules. Particles from dust size to a few kilograms mass are usually completely consumed in the atmosphere. Due to atmospheric drag, most meteorites, ranging from a few kilograms up to about 8 tons (7,000 kg), will lose all of their cosmic velocity while still several miles up. At that point, called the retardation point, the meteorite begins to accelerate again, under the influence of the Earth’s gravity, at the familiar 9.8 meters per second squared. The meteorite then quickly reaches its terminal velocity of 200 to 400 miles per hour (90 to 180 meters per second). The terminal velocity occurs at the point where the acceleration due to gravity is exactly offset by the deceleration due to atmospheric drag.