22
Apr
2012

Daylight Fireball Over California-Nevada, April 22, 2012

The American Meteor Society has so far received over 100 reports so far of a bright fireball over California and Nevada. What is unusual about this event is that it occurred near 8:00am PDT Sunday morning April 22th, in full daylight! Being seen during daylight, most of the reports are of a white object with blue and green being most mentioned secondary colors.  The average brightness reported by witnesses was between that of the sun and the light produced by a full moon. This event occurred near the maximum of the Lyrid meteor shower, but was most likely not associated with this shower.

There were also many reports of a sonic boom associated with this event. This indicates a portion of the meteoroid survived to low levels of the atmosphere (>5 miles altitude). Two days after this event meteorites have been found in the towns of Lotus and Coloma, California.

A fireball is a meteor that is larger than normal. Most meteors are only the size of tiny 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 can also occur during the day (when the blinding sun can obscure them), or on a cloudy night, or over the ocean where there is no one to witness them. Observing during one of the major annual meteor showers can increase your chance of seeing another bright meteor.

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 #588 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 →
35 Responses
  1. Robert Leavitt says: April 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    We saw this object to the northwest at about 7:50 AM from 36N 115W. It was very bright and appear to us to be greenish.


  2. I live in Tahoe Calif. and one thing you did not report in your article was that there was a loud boom that accompanied it. Ya it really rattled the house! I got on the scanner to listen and Tahoe Douglas Fire responded a while later to a call that smoke was coming from an area to the north of Kingsbury Grade atop the Sierra Rim Trail. They were unable to get to the area do to snow, so I am not sure if it can be confirmed that maybe it actually made it to the ground?


  3. George Maddox says: April 22, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    My wife and I saw the meteore reported on 04/22/12 as we were driving north on Ca 99 near Goshen, ca. My parents were traveling around 4 miles north of us near Traver Ca. and saw it too. From our direction on the freeway it seemed to be going nne, time was around 8:00 am.


  4. Denise Jahn says: April 22, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    I saw the fireball this morning in Washoe Valley, Nevada, between Reno and Carson City. It was a large white ball with an orange tail. Approximately 4-5 minutes later, I heard the sonic boom. It was spectacular!


  5. kathleen gramsgibbs says: April 22, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    i was in my backyard this morning hanging up clothes – about 8 am on april 22 2012. i heard what apparently was this meteor. it lasted quite a while – 30 seconds or so. i couldn’t imagine what it was at first but later attributed it to a very large muscle car reving up it’s engine. i didn’t see anything in the sky except sky. (:
    kathleen gramsgibbs
    placerville california


  6. thanks! from sonoma county, we definitely saw a fireball Sat night, April 21 around 915 pm. So spectacular that my dogs went crazy… awesome. We heard but did not see the fireball this morning.


    • Terence Collins says: July 22, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      Yup can confirm that Sat April 21st Fireball followed by a sonic boom a few minutes later. Though it was more like 10pm but no mistaking it. Saw it throw off a few frags.


  7. Bob Powell says: April 22, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    My family and I were sitting on the deck in Arnold Ca. We saw the fireball/meteor. It appeared very large. Several minutes later, there was a sonic boom.


  8. Scott Palmer says: April 23, 2012 at 12:04 am

    I saw the fireball near the California/Oregon border while birding at the Lower Klamath Wildlife Refuge. I knew what it was the moment I saw it. I checked my watch after it vanished and noted it was 7:55. I was on the California side about one mile from Oregon. Go Ducks!

    I did not see it appear, simply turned around and observed it. It was almost metallic in color;chromelike. The notable colors were pink, green, silver and blue. I brought my camera to bear but couldn’t focus before it disappeared. It left no smoke trail and I heard no report.

    It looked so close I watched for an impact and listened for an explosion. It arced from upper left to lower right at about a 30-degree downward angle. The trail was very wide and very long. I would guess it took up 1/10th of the visible sky from my point of view.


  9. Marty Reyes says: April 23, 2012 at 4:11 am

    My husband and I were traveling west on Hwy. 198 from Exeter, Ca., we were near Hanford when I looked out the window and saw the fireball,. I yelled for my husband to look and then it was gone. I couldn’t believe it and at first didn’t want to say that I had seen a meteor, I just said that I had seen something in the sky. I described it to my husband then said I thought it looked like a meteor, only it had a very shiny blue/green tail. I didn’t know that there were daytime sightings of meteors. I was so excited to read your article on the fireball. It is something I will never forget! I wish someone had gotten a picture of it. Are there any pictures of another one that looks similar?


  10. I’m so glad a friend sent me this link. I did not get to see the meteor, but heard and felt it strongly while lying in bed. The boom was so significant it rattled the windows, sounding much deeper (baritone vs tenor) than compared to just a plane breaking the sound barrier. I live in Angels Camp, CA.

    Thank you for your great site – I looked everywhere (NPR, google, and such), but found no information at all.


  11. We live in Lund, Nevada. Sunday morning my husband and I had just finished bottle feeding our baby lambs and were walking back to the house when we saw the meteor. It looked like a fireball with a bright blue and green tail. I have never seen anything like that during the day. We did not hear it or feel it but we thought it was pretty awsome. We were glad we were walking in the right direction at the right time and both got to see it. :)


  12. Don & Lynne Gilman says: April 24, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Robert Lunsford -
    I don’t know if the following information about our experience on April 22nd, 2012 is of particular interest to you or not but……….
    My wife and I were headed west on I-80 right near the Carlin NV exit when we both observed a very bright light and several other lights falling in the southwest direction. I know the time was 7:50 and 10 seconds because I looked at my watch at 25 seconds after that time and knew that we had observed the object about 15 seconds earlier. (My watch displays Atomic Time and is accurate.) The object was very obvious to both of us and the brightness even in the daylight was very bright. We just had time to exit at the Carlin exit and we did so but we really just drove through town and back onto the I -80 westbound. There was not a lot of traffic westbound, but there was enough that I’m sure others would have also seen it. We did not hear any noise in connection with the falling object but we were in the car and may not have heard it anyway. Our first thought was that it had to be a meteor (or meteorite) but I also thought it could possibly be re-entry of space junk. It appeared to be falling at about a 30 degree angle from east to west from our viewpoint. I’m not sure whether we were actually heading due west or not but we were within a mile of the Carlin exit and the object appeared on a line that I later thought to be just about on line with Hawthorne or even Tonopah, NV. Lynne is quite convinced that we were within as little as 5 or 10 miles. I’m not so sure. depending upon the actual size of the object, I can imagine that it could have been many miles from us. It all happened so quickly that it is difficult to recall exactly (for example, could it have disappeared over the furthest horizon? – just not positive about that – Lynne thinks no, I’m not so sure. Thank you, Don & Lynne Gilman


  13. Dan Rudolph says: April 25, 2012 at 3:08 am

    I was out for my run on that Sunday morning here in Fresno, CA when I heard the loud rumble above. I looked up and what I saw I will never forget. The bright flaming object was so bright even on this sunny clear morning. My first thought was it was a jet that caught fire. But it was going way too fast and it appeared from my location to evaporate just above the rooftops but I know now that depending where you live you will see the meteor at various angles. I feel very lucky to witness this daylight meteor. One of those things that will stay in your memory banks.


  14. Interesting articles and pictures in the Reno,NV Reno Gazette Journal about the bolide meteor and sonic boom.

    Article about the infrasonic readings at: http://www.rgj.com/article/20120423/NEWS/304230032/Scientist-says-sound-signal-from-exploding-meteor-lasted-18-minutes

    Pictures of the meteor at: http://www.rgj.com/article/20120423/SPECIAL01/120423013/Reader-photos-meteor-above-Reno-Sunday-morning?odyssey=mod|mostview


  15. Lynne Jacobs says: April 25, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Just wondering if it’s possible to have heard the sonic boom in Texas? I heard a loud boom on Sunday morning that sounded like some type of explosion. Maybe it was a plane breaking the sound barrier or something near my house or something, but seems like a coincidence.


    • Lynne and All,

      Texas is too far away to have a sonic boom there be associated with the April 22nd Fireball.

      Robert Lunsford
      American Meteor Society


  16. I LIVE IN SAN ANDREAS AND WAS WONDERING WERE I MIGHT BE ABLE TO FIND A MAP OR THE STREWN FIELD? mE AND THE WIFE ARE GOING TO HEAD UP TODAY IN THE RAIN AND TRY TO FIND A PIECE OF THIS HISTORY.


    • The towns of Lotus Park and Coloma are within the strewn field. A friend of mine familiar with this area has stated that there are also several rather steep mountains with lush plant growth within the strewn field. Anybody hunting in this area is going have a lot of trouble just walking around. On top of this the American River runs through this area, and in places it is quite wide and the possibility exists that some fragments may have ended up in the water.

      I hope this helps!

      Robert Lunsford
      American Meteor Society


  17. My son and I were driving west on Hwy 50, about 15 mi east of Austin, Nevada. At 0755, to our amazement, we saw this meteor streaking across the daylight sky ,from one side of our windshield to the other! It was much as has been described by others; large , silvery and had a sparkly iridescence to it as it disappeared. We initially thought it might have fallen into the next mountain range, but, as it looked so big, and we heard no sound,we realized it must have fallen much farther away. Little did we realize that it had fallen so close to our home (and destination) in the Sierra foothills of California!


  18. Bob McGuire says: April 27, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Is it to early to put a strewn field map together? or is there a web site that people are posting the locations of their finds? I’m unable to make it up there due to disability issues so I thought it would be fun plotting the locations. thanks for any info!


  19. Catherine Boone says: April 28, 2012 at 1:00 am

    It was so beautiful!!

    I saw the Meteor on Sunday morning April 22 near Las Vegas NV. We had just exited Highway 95 and turned east on Kyle Canyone Rd heading toward Mt. Charleston near 8 A.M. on April 22.

    At first it looked like an ordinary streaking meteor until it reached the mountain tops. A brilliant white light encircled the bottom three-fourth nearly four times larger than the first white tail. Then a brilliant kelly green light covered most of the bottom before it disappeared. No sound. I am looking forward to seeing the pictures on your site!


  20. I was standing out side that Sunday morning and noticed a bright light coming over the mountain here in Coloma, Ca. followed by a loud sound that to me, sounded like extremely loud thunder. The tail of the meteor was long and smoky looking. NASA and other scientist have been searching the area surrounding my home for days now…. At least 10 meteorites have been said to have been found so far.


  21. My husband and I heard more than saw. It was a crackling noise(like static) heard no boom. I looked to the west and saw a bright light (thought it was a reflection off of something) Still not sure if that was it. BUT I found a fragment of it it in Coloma. It has been verified and is now in Arizona. What a rush to find something like this.


  22. Sorry forgot to mention in my previous post, it was within the strewn field in Coloma, not to far off of the road and close to the American River and the Coloma State Park.
    My find was 8.5 gramd. Ruben Garcia verified this. (found on Friday Morning) I am from Garden Valley which is to the East of Coloma and Lotus. (just down the hill from me)


  23. Harold Jones says: April 30, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    On Thurs., 4/26, we found what appears to be a chunk from the meteorite laying in our front lawn area — it weighs about 8 oz. We live in the Gardnerville Ranchos about 2 miles south of the town of Gardnerville, NV. We heard a noise like something hit our house on the morning of 4/22 (but thought it might have been a bird hitting the house). Not sure if it’s the real thing, but will almost bet it is. Going to check the house roof for any damage too!! Can anyone verify if the “rock ” is real? Please advise….


  24. Hi guys,
    My young son found an interesting rock shortly after the meteor sonic boom that took place in CA on April 22nd. I’m trying to find out what it is, and what are the legalities in claiming ownership of such things. Can anyone help?


    • amsadmin says: May 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm

      German,

      Are you located anywhere near the towns of Lotus and Coloma? This is the only area where actual fragments have been found. As for legalities, I will have to leave that advice to others more informed in the field.

      Sincerely,

      Robert Lunsford
      American Meteor Society


  25. Mr. Lunsford,

    Two big, heavy, strange rocks appeared in my community the day after the 4/22 shower. I live in Maryland…is it possible these are debrie from the meteor shower on 4/22. These rocks literally appeared overnight.


    • amsadmin says: May 12, 2012 at 9:38 am

      Troy and All, the particles of the Lyrid shower are basically comet dust and has a consistency of ash. Such a fragile particle moving at tremendous velocities has no chance whatsoever of reaching the ground. I don’t know where your rocks came from but it was not from the Lyrid meteor shower.

      Robert Lunsford
      American Meteor Society


  26. Mike Malone says: May 14, 2012 at 2:17 am

    I was driving East on Hwy 36 near town of Bridgeville, CA at about 7:55ish AM. Out for a Turkey Hunt and noticed a bright light then a larger meteor with chromelike colors of white blue and silver; quickly realized it was a daytime fireball, tried pointing it out to my friend but was gone in 2-4 seconds but the trail was noticed by my friend which I thought lasted for a second or two. It looked as if it was breaking off and smoking/flaming leaving specs directly behind the main ball. Very bright blue skies but the sun wasn’t over the hills yet, in a flat valley. It was a captivating sight!
    Mike M
    Hydesville, Ca


  27. Jim and Joey Wiest says: August 11, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    My son and myself were driving north on S. River Rd. in Paso Robles, CA on our way to church at about 7:50 AM and we saw a large green irridescent object heading northwest. I am glad that we found this website to verify that we saw. It was an amazing sight!
    Dr. Jim W.
    Paso Robles, CA


  28. Carla Autin says: April 24, 2013 at 1:59 am

    I live in Northern California and was awakened this morning, April 23rd, at 1 a.m. by a BOOM. The house shook and the dogs barked. I haven’ t come across anyone else feeling this.


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