The American Meteor Society has received over 60 reports of a bright meteor that occurred near 06:10 CDT on Tuesday morning October 30, 2012, over the southern mid-western states. Reports were received as far south as Alabama and Louisiana, as far north as Illinois, as far east as Kentucky and Tennessee, and as far west as Texas and Oklahoma. Brightness estimates of this fireball vary considerably, but the average lies near magnitude -13, which is equivalent to the light produced by the full moon. Several colors have been reported with green being the most predominant. Summaries of individual reports may be viewed in the 2012 AMS Fireball Table Refer to event #1677 for 2012.
We are near the peak time of year for Taurid meteors, which are known to produce colorful fireballs. Bill Cooke of the NASA Meteoroid Environments Office reports that this fireball was most likely a member of the Taurid meteor shower, which is active during October and November. He provides the following details:
Event time: October 30 11:10:58 UTC (6:10:58 AM CDT) Initial speed: 24.3 km/s Final speed: 15 km/s Radiant: RA: +55, Dec: +13 Start point: 89.475 W, +35.444 at an altitude of 70.6 km (43.9 miles) End point: 88.673 W, +35.502 at an altitude of 29.2 km (18.1 miles) .
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 inflatable water slides for sale.
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.
American Meteor Society