Fireball over SE Canada and NE USA September 21, 2012

The American Meteor Society has received over 75 reports of a bright meteor that occurred near 20:30 (8:30pm EDT) on Friday September 21, 2012 over southeastern Canada and northeastern USA. Brightness estimates of this fireball vary considerably, but the average lies near magnitude -11, which is slightly inferior to the light produced by the full moon.. Every color of the rainbow has been reported with green and blue being the most predominant. Individual reports may be viewed in the 2012 AMS Fireball Table Refer to event #1375 for 2012.

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 →
38 Responses
  1. I saw this meteor from outsdie my home in St Johnsbury, VT USA. It ws spectacular!

    • white Feather Curtiss says: September 22, 2012 at 12:27 pm

      saw an incredible bright ball through the pines around 8:30 ish never saw anything like that in the area, amazing! lasted around 10 minutes, rose slightly and dimmed from where we are in the catskills. ulster cty.

      • white Feather Curtiss says: September 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm

        i do not think this is the same thing u are talking about since this lingered for a while, though i did see a metor during that time in the north, it was quick .

    • I also saw it in MD that night except it was around 1130 pm … also TONIGHT 9/23/12 heading south from the 21236 area code i saw something identical yet quicker

    • Steve Fleming says: February 22, 2013 at 10:30 am

      I was walking last night around 10:29pm and saw a HUGE Meteor as I was walking down Pico… It burned for close to 4 seconds and looked amazingly yellow with red as it burned out!

  2. I have seen two the last couple nights……didn’t catch this one……one was at 3:30 this morning, and the other was at 1:30 the previous morning……..

  3. Matthew Miller says: September 22, 2012 at 12:05 am

    I saw the bright light in amsterdam ny 12010 round that timing

  4. Dave LaBarge says: September 22, 2012 at 7:58 am

    Four out of five of us saw last night’s meteor from Watervliet, NY at about 8:30. It appeared on a very low trajectory from the North for about 2-3 seconds and started off yellow while then changing to a very bright green before disappearing from view behind the house across the street. Could have sworn I heard a dull “poof” as it disappeared from view… Plenty of coverage on this mornings local news. A very cool and rare sight to see!

  5. christopher brown says: September 22, 2012 at 9:12 am

    i saw this clear as could be on fri. eve. i was looking into the north western sky and saw a white streaking fireball that was traveling very fast.as it continued down it seemed to increase in size as it turned red.green and blue.it then turned white again as it dropped below the horizon.it seemed close enough that i was listening for a sound,or flash as it hit the earth. there was neither. i considered that it could be a firework until i recreated what i had seen and realized that i first saw it high up in the air.it was pretty awesome!i would say my total view time was about 1.5-2.0 seconds.

  6. On Friday September 21, 2012 at approximately 8:30 pm, I witnessed a meteor in the sky north east of Trenton Ontario Canada. It was bright with multiple colours but green and blue were most predominant. Meteor was travelling straight down.

    • Hey Greg, Are you from Gravenhurst? Krista and I saw it too. We where at the corner of 118 and Wellington in Bracebridge.
      We thought at first that it was the start of a fireworks display.

  7. 9 of us were just getting out of our seats in a Starbucks in Ottawa Ontario Canada when we all saw a very bright blue and white fireball in the sky. It appeared with a flash that seemed to be much brighter than the moon as it got out attention in a highly lit coffee shop. Windows were on the east side of the building and it was moving southeast. Lasted only about 2 seconds from what I could tell. Absolutely spectacular!

  8. About 11pm gmt time here in uk seen fire ball go across sky looked pretty close to me white with a fire trailing behind thought it was a aircraft gone down no noise it was flying straight spooky

  9. carline thurston says: September 22, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Driving onto the interstate 90 exit from interstate 495 (west) last night, in Massachusetts, my daughter Renee spotted a large fireball in the sky, lasting only two seconds, bright white in color. Our vehicle was actually on the circular exit so we don’t know what direction the fireball was in. It was so fast that because I had turned my head, I missed it. She was speechless at first, because it was so big. She said the leading edge of it was definitely curved and semicircular; and about the size of your fist in front of your face. It did go from right to left in front of our windshield. The time was approx. 8:20 PM.

  10. Poultney, VT My husband and I saw this fireball from our living room window last night around 8:30. It was spectacular! Like others, I opened the door to hear the sound of it hitting the ground, as it appeared really close. Quite a sight.

  11. I saw it while traveling north in Derry NH. It did appear appear to be travel straight down. If meteors remain visible at 50 miles high and I could still see it at the horizon 200 miles away then it was heading to Canada

  12. Kevin Corcoran says: September 22, 2012 at 11:30 am

    We were driving on the 401 west of Brighton when we saw this meteor/fireball appear very briefly brilliant bluish white amazing to see

  13. Happened to be out on my west facing deck on the east shore of Schroon Lake, NY at that time – it looked BRIGHT neon green to me.

  14. Colin Affleck says: September 22, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    We live in L’Orignal in Eastern Ontario, Canada, and I saw the one on 21 Sept 2012 myself. Out in the yard with the dog about 2000 or so and there was an intense whitish green flash, like a camera flash but MUCH brighter from seemingly directly overhead. For a fraction of a second, it looked like a search light had been pointed down into our yard. But there was no sound. Having seen something like it years ago, I knew what it was, but I have never seen one with this intensity. BTW, the dog (he’s just a pup) freaked and legged it for the door.

  15. I saw it last night at 8:30 while driving on the Thruway, west bound, near Coxsackie. I didn’t know what it was so pulled over, it looked so close and big. It was a bright light in the middle with reddish orange around the edges with a long tail. I didn’t know it was a fireball until I found this site. I’ve seen some meteor showers before but hadn’t ever seen anything like this before.

  16. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life! It looked like a huge ball of fire in the northeast sky, arcing as it fell – yellow, orange & red, edged in white and with a long whitish tail. It lasted only 2 – 3 seconds as I re-create it in my mind, but during that brief time my thoughts raced from an asteroid, to some huge nearby firework gone bad, to a UFO, and lastly, since we were literally sitting on the patio at Beneduce’s which borders a small local airport – God forbid – an aircraft accident! It’s hard to describe the fireball size, but perhaps a little bigger than the size of the moon when it’s high in the sky. By the time friends looked up, it was gone, and they blamed my sighting on the grape, but the fireball and I were surprisingly clear as a bell. No one else in the larger group of about 20 had apparently seen it, social conversations continued, no one was pointing or looking up, and I started to question myself. After a bunch of google searches, I finally found there were about 60 reports of this over the northeast & Canada. I really can’t compare it’s awesomeness to anything, I just feel very fortunate to have seen it.

  17. Sherri Whitehurst says: September 23, 2012 at 11:13 am

    My boyfriend and I saw a fireball on Friday night as well. I’m not sure if it is the same one, but it was definitely spectacular. We are in Illinois and it was approximately 11:45 p.m. We were facing west and it appeared low in the sky on a westward path. It was easily visible for 5 seconds. It seemed brighter than a full moon and had a large trail of fire following it. Quite amazing!

  18. Benoit LeBlanc says: September 23, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    My daughter and me saw it, we were entering in the road to our chalet at St-Faustin, Lac Carré, Quebec, the meteorite was rose-purple and seams to exploded.What was very exciting was that the meteorite light was igniting the cloud. The sky was clear with little clouds, it was just after a shower.

    • Christian Dicaire says: October 4, 2012 at 9:10 am

      Hi Benoit,
      I tough I was the only one that saw this but guess not Wow it was great
      big white line slowing down cracking down into pieces and ended like a sparkle candle that we put on birthday cakes..
      Salut Benoit ben oui to collegue de travaile.. :-)

  19. Absolutely the Coolest meteor I have ever witnessed. Saw it while attending a HS football game. Saw straight up and down white yellow trail behind a circular ball, for 5-6 seconds before it disappeared behind the houses across the street in Warminster, PA.

  20. My 4year old was sitting at our dinner table around 8:30-8:40 when she stated she had just saw a “firework”. Her dad and I thought nothing of it until I went on my Facebook and realized other people had saw a meteor, some friends who had saw it live in Toronto. It was very quick because her dad and I both looked after she said it and we didn’t see anything..

  21. Matt Campbell says: September 24, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Three of us witnessed the “green hued” fireball as it appeared to descend into the distant woodline. We were facing North/North West near our Ballston Lake homes….I didnt know what it was – as at first I thought it was a misdirected firework.

  22. Herickx Cécile says: September 24, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    I saw it in Belgium at 23:54 (GMT +1) in Brussels – direction West-West-West-North – Wondeful green colors, with a bright orange-yellowish tail, and moving so slowly. The same speed as an airplane. It was losing incandescent particle.

    I though at a first time to an airplane crasch.

    Just wonderfull !

  23. Im not sure this is the same thing but around 7:30pm i saw what looked like a fireball with a long tail. It was heading away from my location. I was in Central New Jersey.

  24. I’ve been looking all over the internet to validate what I saw. My sister and I were sitting on our dock on Lake George around 8:30 on friday night 9/21, we saw a streak of light in the western sky above the mountains. An orange ball lit up the sky and seemed to explode then disintegrate. This all happened within 10 seconds. An amazing sight.

  25. We had exactly the same go right across england on the same day, England time 11pm or just afterwards. You can see many sighting on YOUTUBE from the UK. I am still trying to research it and our mainstream news seem to be trying whitewash the whole thing.

  26. I saw it while traveling home that night. It was bright, never seen anything like it.

  27. I saw this too as I was driving home from work on Friday night. I think the guy in front of me must have seen it too as he tapped his brakes for a second. I was unreal!

  28. On 9/26 around 7:45 sitting on my front porch (facing due East); in N.C. (Raleigh area) I saw this yellow/orange ball traveling South to North, I have yet to find anyone else to validate what I saw but I would call it a “fireball” – It was incredible. My friends think I drank “moonshine”. LOL. It was the most amazing thing to see. I wish it could be confirmed. I even contacted the local news station – but no response.

  29. Myself and 7 others saw this meteor while on top of a mountain in West Fairlee, VT. We were up there taking a rest from ATV’n and were lucky enough to spot this. It was a massive Red/Orange flame that ran accross the sky to the NE. It was an incredible sight!

  30. I was locking my front door in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. My wife mentionshow bright the stars are. I glanced looking NE and saw a huge fire ball traveling south for about 2 seconds @ 8:20pm Nov 6th 2012. Just happens to be my birthday. Wow that was cool. Ive seen shooting stars but never a fireball. It looked very close, not traveling as fast as you might think it would.

  31. TROUT POUND PENOBSCOTT COUNT MAINE seen fireball traveling southish to heading north towards canada i wish i would of reported next day i believe it was friday 21st started seeing it traveling from the south with chunkes of it on fire busting off it heading with like a stream of fire on the maine piece its tale end never seen anything like it it lasted about 6 to 10 sec last i seen of it it was heading toward canada i think it was about 9pm

  32. Stephen Daniels says: December 14, 2012 at 9:44 am

    I saw this as I was departing Newark on flight UA37 to Edinburgh, Scotland. Spotted it out the window as I was somewhere over-land perhaps 15 mins into the flight. I thought it was some idiot firing a firework at the aircraft, but soon realised we were far too high for that.

    I forgot about it until today reading about the Geminids, so googled the date and this was almost the exact time.

    The odd thing is, I wasn’t sitting with my nose pressed against the window, but just happened to be looking out, so I wasn’t looking too high – I wonder how low it came..?


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