Midwestern USA Fireball March 13, 2012

The American Meteor Society has so far received approximately 20 reports of a dazzling fireball over much of the midwestern states. This event occurred near 6:45am CDT Tuesday morning March 13th. Reports of many different colors have been received, with blue and green being most mentioned.  The average brightness reported by witnesses was near the light produced by a half illuminated moon.

A fireball is a meteor that is larger than normal. Most meteors are only the size of small pebbles. A meteor the size of a softball can produce light equivalent to the full moon for a short instant. The reason for this is the extreme velocity at which these objects strike the atmosphere. Even the slowest meteors are still traveling at 10 miles per SECOND, which is much faster than a speeding bullet. Fireballs occur every day over all parts of the Earth. It is rare though for an individual to see more than one or two per lifetime as they also occur during the day, on a cloudy night, or over a remote area where no one sees it. Observing during one of the major annual meteor showers can increase your chance of seeing another one of these bright meteors.

Fireballs often appear much closer than they really are. The AMS receives countless reports that an object landed just over the hill when in fact it was several hundred miles away and was witnessed over several states or provinces. It is your perspective that makes meteors appear to strike the horizon when in fact they are still high in the atmosphere. This is much like a jetliner seen low in your sky. It appears low to you and close to the ground, but for someone located many miles away in that direction, the jetliner is passing high overhead. Meteors become visible at approximately 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. Friction slows these objects down until they fall below the velocity necessary to produce light. At this point they still lie at least 5 miles high in the sky. They are invisible below this altitude and cannot be seen as they basically free falling to the ground at 200mph. Very few meteors actually reach the ground as 99.99% completely disintegrate while still 10-20 miles up in the atmosphere.

In the AMS fireball table, refer to event #373 for 2012.

Clear Skies!

Robert Lunsford

About Robert Lunsford

Bob has been interested in the stars as far back as he can recall His first experience with meteors was a biggie, the 1966 Leonid shower. In 1980, a major awaking occurred. He received a sample copy of Meteor News. He was amazed to learn there was a group actually devoted strictly to meteor observing! He joined the group also started to view some of the minor showers list among the pages of Meteor News. Lastly, he was contracted by Springer Publishing in 2007 to write a book on observing meteors. The book is now available and hopefully will be a useful guide to all interested in the enjoyable field of meteor observing. More info about Robert Lunsford →
16 Responses
  1. I witnessed a fireball this morning about 6:40 am. I live in the Texas Panhandle. It appeared to move from the southwest to the northeast. Brightness about like a full moon with a tail of green and blue with orange. it went over the building to my left and I saw a flash…asumming it exploded. no sound was heard….but I work in a refinery so the noise is LOUD!!

  2. Russ Dobias says: March 13, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Looking northwest from Tulsa, Oklahoma I saw it for a few seconds. It was traveling northwest.

  3. Valerie Krumins says: March 14, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Hey! I’m a rock hound who loves Meteorite Men. I realize you may be protecting the location of this meteorite so hunters can find it’s pieces – but can’t you give a general area, without giving too much info? What States did this fly over, for instance?

    Thank you and thanks for the site. “Ah’ll be ba-a-ck!” Ha.

    Colorado Rock Hound

    • Valerie and All,

      We are not hiding anything. While we are not directly involved in meteorites, our fireball table does list the locations each witness saw their fireball. I hope this helps!

      Robert Lunsford
      American Meteor Society

  4. 6:40 am I witnessed a fireball . It appeared at approximately 30 degrees in the west north west and went out at about 20 degrees. My location is Rogers Arkansas. Sighting at Tulsa was possible the sane one. Would this put the fall in western Oklahoma? Date seen 3/13/12
    If any
    one can project the fall where would it be?

  5. Mister Radar says: March 14, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    I saw this awesome event from Redfield Kansas at about 0640. I was looking west. When I saw it, It looked as if it came from the east – slight northeast.

  6. My friend and I witnessed a fireball meteor at approximately 8:20-8:30pm Eastern Standard Time on March 13, 2012 in Miami, Florida… We were facing NNW when it occurred… It seemed to enter from the north and went in the direction of the south… as I faced NNW it came in from my right and went to my left. I could see red flame (my friend said she saw green)… the white streak was visible for at least 3 seconds… it was quite spectacular.

  7. Tonya Jones says: March 15, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    I witnessed a fireball at approxiameltly 6:40am on March 13th, 2012 while driving to work on HWY 51 in Coweta, Oklahoma the fireball appeared to burn out.

  8. I’ve been a sky watcher my whole life, and like many others, just turned into the drive at work as the meteor lit up directly in my view to the west. It flashed twice w/smaller red “sparks”, but was mostly blue-white from my perspective. It “burned out” 2-3 degrees above the horizon from me. No sound that i heard.

  9. Sorry, I’m new to this comment thing. I’m from Chanute, KS.

  10. Also, it went nearly straight down

  11. My backyard security camera caught this event. The video quality is not great but you can clearly see it falling, then a bright flash as it breaks into smaller pieces. I put the video up on youtubes for everyone to enjoy. http://youtu.be/JFhmaymgk_w

  12. connie kerr says: March 25, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    a friend and i were sitting on hotel balcony in orlando florida facing Big Sand Lake next to I-4 southwest on tuesday, march 13 around 8:15-8:20 p.m. when a spectacular fireball/meteorite whizzed by from east to west in front of us about twenty degrees above the horizon. it was a brilliant blue ball with red/orange center and long white and blue tail. I have never before been blessed to see one!

  13. Saw this fireball on March 13, 2012 around 6:40 am. I live in Western Michigan. From my location the fireball was located south, south east moving south east. It became brighter / bigger as it moved, leaving a beautiful fire tail behind; then disintegrated.

  14. i say this out here in southern maine at about 2:30 a.m. eastern time while sitting on my porch.
    it was a awesome sight as it passed with a red and yellow fireball fame .

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