20
Jun
2012

Daylight Fireball Over Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, & New Mexico

The American Meteor Society has received 31 reports so far of a bright daylight fireball over Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, & New Mexico. 9 of the 31 reports are from Colorado Springs. This event occurred sometime from 12:35 to 12:40pm MDT Wednesday afternoon June 20th. Reports of many different colors have been received, with white and orange being most mentioned.  The average brightness reported by witnesses varied quite a bit, ranging from brighter than the full moon to brighter than the sun.

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. Even though fireballs occur every day over all parts of the Earth, it is rare though for an individual to see more than a couple of these bright meteors per lifetime as they 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 #860 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 →
12 Responses
  1. Troy Vaille says: June 20, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    I saw this also. I live in Dillon, Colorado and saw it to the East. This was the brightest thing I have ever seen. It looked a Yellow Green to us.


  2. I live 30 miles East of Colorado Springs and saw it on my way to the mailbox. Beautiful, brilliant light gold color. Rather like the sun reflected off of shiny metal.


  3. A co-worker saw a bright white ball that appeared to be the size of a softball with a 6-10 ft trail of flame. It appeared to have landed about 200 yards from his location, which was S. E. of Sheridan Lake in Kiowa County! This eent happened about 12:40 pm on 20 June 2012………


  4. Sheri Perkins says: June 21, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    I saw this and i live in Garden City, Ks, 250 miles to the East, just happened to look up at the right time, and saw a shiney metallic streak across the sky, must of been big for me to see it that far away in the daylight of the summer solstice.


  5. LOSnively says: June 21, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    Several us at a lacrosse tournament in Edwards, CO saw something at about that time. It was low in the an ENE direction from Edwards (30 miles west of Dillon, CO). I’m guessing it started at about a 15-20 degree elevation angle and disappeared behind mountains blocking the horizon to the east. I saw silver-white. It first appeared as a streak, and then broke into a what to my eye appeared to be a solid fan over about half it’s visible path. The path angle from the zenith was probably at about 20-30 degrees, north to south. It was considerably brighter than a half moon rising at that time of day, and the fan became as large as a full moon. It was not as bright as the sun, but certainly bright enough to draw our attention to it in the middle of the day. Of course I have no way to it’s judge distance, but there was no sound associated with it, and I’m guessing it was at least 100 miles to the east, and probably much more than that.


  6. Yes. It was broad daylight as I rode on the passenger side of a northbound car, we passed Questa and were nearing the Colorado line. In a flash the fireball swept across the sky. It appeared to dip right behind the hillside that was coming up on the right. Even though the meteor dipped, its course appeared to be more horizontal than 45 degrees. Seconds later when I recalled the icon that was before me, I’d swear it was the perfect “comet”. It’s ball glowed bright white and silver, much brighter than a full moon but not nearly as blinding as the sun. The tail was golden-amber and its brightness only lasted for a split second afterwards. I would have sworn that it landed nearby.
    Less than a minute later the first of 2 jets flew right over us, and I would guess they scrambled to follow the rock and then to see where it landed. The driver next to me did not see the meteor, he was either looking to the left or his view was blocked by the rear view mirror at the time. Because I was looking forward I was quickly able to look straight at the thing when its brightness came into view.


  7. Saw a flash, then streaking light near us Olympic training center in Colorado springs on Wednesday June 20th. We thought it was fire works or flair gun, but I guess now we saw a meteor. Very bright, white, reddish pink, did not last long, looked like it went into ground, but do not know for sure. Pretty cool to see.


  8. Harlan Stueven says: June 23, 2012 at 12:45 am

    Was driving from Albuquerque to Denver on interstate 25 mid day Wednesday June 20, 2012. Fireball came across highway from west to east at about a 45 degree angle with the sky and landed in field. Seemed like it was the size of a basketball. very bright with a trail. No other sighting noted. Both my spouse and I saw it and were in separate cars.


  9. I witnessed this as I was driving north on I-25 just north of Trinidad, CO at 12:40. It seemed to have suddenly exploded through the sky from my left and then traveled east at a slight angle. It appeared to be about the size of a basket ball & had a silvery/bluish & white flaming tail. It was pretty bright and I also wondered if it wasn’t fireworks. Amazing sight to see !


  10. I was on top of Redcloud Peak (14,000+ feet) in SW Colorado and had a perfect view as this “object” came out of the atmosphere ENE of my location. It lasted maybe 2-3 seconds, had a large white tail, and was silver (almost reflective) in color. As the object reached around my elevation, there was a flash of light and the object vaporized (not sure that is the right word to describe what happened). I did not see any remnants of the object after the flash. What an amazing sight! I only witnessed this because I was waiting on top of the peak for the rest of my hiking party and the winds were howling 30-40 MPH so I took cover in a rock windbreak which faces you east and block the west winds. Ron


  11. I was in the San Isabel forest (East of Pueblo) and saw this, too. So bright considering it was daylight.


  12. Just wanted to add my belated comments. I was the one on top of Redcloud Peak in the San Juan Mountains quoted in the Denver Post article. I was sitting on top of Redcloud Peak (a 14,000 mountain) awaiting my hiking partners and looking ENE while sheltering myself from a very strong W wind at the time (30-45 MPH). As I was looking ENE, a large silver object was streaking towards earth (coming N to S) with flames near the object and a large smoke tail behind the streaking object. I watched as the object streaked towards earth wondering if this was going to cause more wildfires. As the object reached about my level (14k), everything “vaporized” and it disappeared. I had a perfect view of the object from on top of the peak. It was definately silver and fairly large (cone shaped). My assumption was that it was space junk; certainly not a meteorite that has been reported (in my opinion). The skies were crystal clear and not a cloud in the sky (only distant smoke from several fires). Ron


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