6
Jun
2012

Lower Midwestern USA Fireball June 5, 2012

The American Meteor Society has received 35 reports of a bright fireball over much of the lower Midwestern states including Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas . This event occurred at 10:11pm CDT Tuesday evening June 5th. Reports of many different colors have been received, with blue and green being most mentioned.  The average brightness reported by witnesses was in excess of the light produced by a full moon. A video of this event has been made available by experienced observer James Beauchamp from Oklahoma City. It may be viewed at:

http://youtu.be/E_kKsNKe4HQ

Many thanks to James for posting this video so quickly and making it available to all of us!

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 #793 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 →
6 Responses
  1. On June 5, 2012 My husband and I were traveling home on I-75 to Cedarville Michigan from Detroit. At 3:33 am (now 6/6/12), we saw a huge meteor in the northern sky for about 15 seconds. It went behind a cloud for 3 seconds and then re-appeared. We had never seen anything like it. It was almost like 4 falling stars side by each with the middle two teal and really bright. It spanned 3 of my fingers put together. We enjoy boating and boating at night during meteor showers as we have an amazing view. I took an astronomy class during my undergrad years. (1 hour south of where I live in Mackinac City, they just created a dark sky observatory type hike to the water with planetary information along your walk. I haven’t been there yet but it is a goal I have for this summer). I’ve been looking for information on this, and the other reports even with the Texas 3 hour time difference doesn’t match the time we saw it. We thought that it may have hit somewhere in the Eastern Upper Peninsula, but after reading articles it my have hit somewhere in Canada if it hit at all. I have two bachelor degrees and I will have my Masters Degree in Social Work in August. Any feedback I could get about this would be greatly appreciated.


    • amsadmin says: June 8, 2012 at 9:14 pm

      Danielle and All,

      There are no other reports of this event in our fireball table and unfortunately none are probably forthcoming due to the early hour. It sounds as if this fireball fragmented into four pieces before disintegrating. While rare, this fragmentation does sometimes occur with fireballs of lower velocity.

      I hope this helps!

      Robert Lunsford
      American Meteor Society


  2. Hervey Carraway says: June 9, 2012 at 12:07 am

    On June 5, 2012 I was returning home to Wichita, Ks from my grandsons baseball game in Towanda, Ks. I was traveling west on US 254 just east of Greenwich Road. At 2210 hrs I saw a bright, mostly greenish burning object appear out my drivers (south) window. The object appeared to be traveling east and was visible for just a few (3 to 4 maybe) seconds. Pretty cool!


  3. Rebecca Caruso says: August 19, 2012 at 12:22 am

    Hi. I found your website when I searched for fireball January 1987. My husband and I were on our way to a hospital at around 4:00 a.m. travelling east on I-10 near New Orleans. In the eastern sky we saw a gigantic greenish to orange round light with a tail “falling” to the eastern horizon. It was visible for it seemed like 5-8 seconds. I had seen something similar at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala in October, November, or December of 1978. Could these have been fireballs? I’d never thought to look this up before. Can you help me identify these occurrences? They were spectacular. I’ll never forget them as long as I live. Thanks for what you do.


    • Rebecca,

      These certainly sound like fireballs. Sorry but I have only been keeping track of these events since 2005, so trying to track down events from 40 years ago is nearly impossible. If you look at our fireball tables you will see that these events occur everyday. Still the odds are that people will only see 1 or 2 of these fireballs in a lifetime since folks are rarely outside at night. If they are outside, sometimes it is cloudy, which will obscure these events.

      I hope this helps!

      Robert Lunsford
      American Meteor Society


  4. amanda sibio says: November 5, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    sighted a green meteor, seemed low to ground at 10.15 pm over Victoria, Australia. this was almost due north. Had never seen anything luke this before.


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