30
Aug
2012

August 29th 2012 Fireball Over Over Mid-Eastern USA

The American Meteor Society has received 45 reports of a bright meteor that occurred at 21:48 (9:48pm  EDT) on Wednesday August 29th 2012. Reports have been received as far south as North Carolina, as far north as Pennsylvania, as far east as Virginia, and as far west as Tennessee. Brightness estimates of this fireball average about the light produced by a full moon. Many different colors were reported with green and blue being the most predominant. Individual reports may be viewed in the 2012 AMS Fireball Table Refer to event #1224 for 2012.

Stuart McDaniel of the Cleveland County Astronomical Society of North Carolina has captured this event on his Sentinel All Sky Camera. He has graciously posted his video to You Tube so that all may view this event. You may view his video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAjv5kyrNa0&feature=youtu.be

Notice that the skies were mostly cloudy from his location yet the fireball is visible through the clouds attesting to its brightness. Many thanks to Stuart for posting his link to “Meteorobs” and making it available quickly so that we all may view it!

For those not familiar with meteors and fireballs, 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.

Meteors often appear much closer than they really are. I receive countless reports that the object landed just over the hill when in fact it was several hundred miles away and was witnessed over several states. 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 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.

Robert Lunsford

American Meteor Society

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 →
11 Responses
  1. Anne Marie Saldajeno says: August 30, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    We saw it in Seattle around 8:50 pm PST. From our view it hovered in the eastern sky, with a bright firey head and sparks emitting from the tail. It glowed brighter and seemed to hover, not streak across the sky (which was why I wasn’t sure it was a meteor)…then suddenly it burned out and disappeared. Glad the rest of you saw it, but in the West it looked different than described in the East.


  2. Angela Brown says: August 30, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Last night about 10:00pm. I was standing outside with my sister an we witnessed a fireball. At the time we weren’t sure what we were seeing. Very bright vivid colors of blue an green even some orange/yellow. We are in Mountain City,Tn. This is in NE tn. Our county bourders N.C. and Va.


  3. Im not sure if its the same, but I saw one over Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico on August 29, 2012 at 9:12pm AST. Green beautiful one.


  4. Lisa Barbour says: August 31, 2012 at 7:29 am

    I was sitting outside my home in Clemmons, NC and witnessed the meteor right in front of me. I first thought it was a shooting star but it seemed to be right in front of my then turned a beautiful green color and seemed like it landed with a mile from me! It was beautiful and I am so excited that I was not going crazy with this sighting. I posted on FB about seeing it and my friends thought I was on drugs! haha


  5. Mary Dunnam says: August 31, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    I saw this meteor driving through Winston-Salem, NC at around 9:48 p.m. I’m used to seeing small meteors out in the country on a clear, moonless night, but never anything like this – and certainly not in the middle of a major city with a bright moon nearby. It was spectacularly beautiful!


  6. John Wonderley says: August 31, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    On 8/29/12 at ~9:50PM I was in my house wqtching TV. I live ~8 miles east opf Christiansburg, VA. I heard this noise that sounded like an Osprey which has 2 large propellers one on the end of each wing. The noise that lasted ~10 seconds started from the NW and disapeared somewhere SE of where I live. I have seen Osprey air planes fly over before but never close enough to shakle the house. Could this have been a Meteor that a lot of people saw at about that time? Could it have been breaking the sound barrier and that is what I heard?


  7. I stepped outside to let my dogs out around 9:30-9:45 August 29 and I saw an orange ball falling from the sky. I could see it burning and as it burned, it formed a bright green triangular shaped tail. I watched it for several seconds before it disappeared beyond the tree line. How awesome!


  8. Robert Balash says: September 2, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    I found a heavy black magnetic rock that thursday morning in the grass in Buffalo NY I was trying to figure out if it was a meteorite and i read this report now Im wondering maybe it is.


  9. I took a picture of what it seems a fireball/meteorite from NJ on August 30 2012. Can’t find any comments on the web. Can mail picture if interested. Thanks


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