Just before 1 a.m. on Tuesday May 17, a meteor blazed through the skies above New England and parts of Canada. To astonished sky-watchers on the ground, the object appeared to plummet toward the Earth before exploding with an earth-shaking boom. Although the fireball looked like one piece, meteor experts believe it likely split before entering our atmosphere, then exploded.

"It was SO white and the bright light hurt my eyes," Ontario resident Diana Legault of Stittsville told CBC News in an email.

Meteor physicist Peter Brown caught the event on his university’s sky-facing camera.

The fireballs were clearly impressive, and the rocks within likely ranged in size from a basketball to a shopping cart, Brown told CBC news.

Other videos of the event caught the moment of explosion, in which the flaming object appears to fracture into smaller, solid pieces. Those meteorites, if scientists can locate them, could be an important discovery.

The Associated Press reports that to encourage public interest in finding the pieces, the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum has put up a $20,000 reward for chunks of meteorite weighing 1 kg or more—about the size of a softball.

"I would not be surprised if meteorites of that size or larger are found," Brown said. Even smaller fragments could be of great benefit to researchers, although they may be hard to find.

Astronomers believe the meteor pierced our atmosphere somewhere over New Hampshire, then traveled northeast toward western Maine.

Header image from YouTube // Associated Press