October 30th 2012 Fireball Over Southern Mid-West USA

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.

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 →
36 Responses
  1. um…so what about the meteor that was heard around 6pm in north AL?

    • Stacy and All,

      Yes there was another fireball reported around 6pm EDT today. We are a bit overloaded at the moment so unfortunately we have to concentrate on the most widely viewed event. The later event was witnessed over a smaller area and reported by 20 people so far. If anything interesting arises from this event, we will be certain to comment on it.

      Robert Lunsford
      American Meteor Society

      • Yes , All of us here at Yellow Wolf Gem Mining in Youngtown, AL west of Moulton, all heard it and it sounded like a Rocket that blew up, followed by several small explosion sounds…. We would like to know too!!

      • Amy Donaldson says: October 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm

        I witnessed the fireball at 5:37pm central time. It lasted for about 5 seconds and was bright green in color. I am located 15 miles south south west of Birmingham Alabama.

      • I also witnessed the fireball/shooting star/meteorite between 6:10 to 6:15 am Central Time
        on the morning of October 30th. I was traveling east on Hwy 94 east of Hermann, MO and looked south when I saw a large white streak heading downward at about 45 degrees heading from West to East and seem to explode in dark green and vanish in what seem to
        be just above the hills above the Missouri River. But reading what others have seen probably wasn’t that close. IT WAS AWESOME!

    • Stacy, I saw the fireball in the western sky and approx. 2 minutes later heard the sonic boom. I have reported it on this website, but I think they have to have time to form any decisions… i guess. I live in Hanceville and saw it really clearly in the western sky.. I was amazed, but it happened so fast, I was just amazed!


    • I live in Vestavia Hills ,Al 10 miles south of Birmingham. I witnessed a very large blue/green light with an orange trail traveling south to north. It was reported by local media that it landed near near Smith Lake near Jasper, Al. It was also detected by seismograph in Huntsville, Al. Media report was by ABC 33/40 weather blog.

  2. We saw this early in the morning, pulling up to the airport in Monroe, La. It was the brightest, closest thing we have ever seen, it dropped right behind the airport as we pulled up. Simply so amazing, had to see if anyone else saw it. It was almost exactly 6:10 am. Truely awesome sight, glad to see it.

  3. I sent you information on a video I have of the meteor at 6:10 AM in MS.

  4. Cherry Craven says: October 30, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    I saw the most amazing fireball this afternoon around 5:50pm, still broad daylight in Batesville, MS. I saw it facing the eastern sky with the fireball shooting from the south falling to the north @ a 45degree angle! It was awesome, especially seeing it in the daylight!!! I thought it was a plane crashing or something! I feel very lucky for this is the second large fireball I’ve had sighting of in the past couple years!!! They r so majestic!!!!

    • I saw the fireball as well around 5:40-ish in Memphis. I was coming from work, downtown Memphis and saw a bright light falling slowly at a 60 degree angle. It suddenly disintegrated. I was expecting to see a plane or helicopter crash site. It was traveling in a south to north direction.

    • Cherry, I saw the same one as I was going east on highway 4 going towards Looxahoma MS. It was in the SE sky and was amazing! It looked very close but must not have been. My brother saw it at the same time on New Brunswick Road in Shelby County TN.

  5. So I am not crazy!!! I live in Columbus Ga and saw the same thing on my way home from work. It was around 7 AM (eastern time) and the moon was still out. The meteor and tail had a green color and the breakage reminded me of a fireworks show. The brightness was a little smaller than 1/4 the size of the moon. Did not hear a noise because I was in my vehicle. It disappeared on the horizon traveling south to north. To give you an idea of how big and bright this was I literally expected to hear an explosion.

  6. Dwight Peyton says: October 31, 2012 at 8:05 am

    I live in western KY and saw the fire ball in the lower southern sky. It was cloudy and the fire ball appeared to be larger than the full moon. It was bluish in color and moving very fast. Great sight, I will not forget.

  7. laura waterman says: October 31, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    We saw this alsom heading to work in il. we have never see anything like this!!!!

  8. laura martin says: October 31, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    me and my son was on our way to work and school on oct 30 2012 and at ten after six on highway 72 west coming to florence, al from elgin, al. we saw this green purple looking object zooming through the sky. nobody believes us of course. later that night. i was in central community at his football practice. and there it was again. my frriend saw it. so i have a third witness

  9. My husband is a truck driver and was at exit 318 on I-65 north near Cullman, AL and it was around 9:15 pm and he called me to tell me that he saw a light that fell out of the sky. Around the time of that phone call, my son saw a post on facebook from a friend that was also traveling in that area and saw the same thing, Was this the same type of incident that happened earlier in the evening or morning?

  10. Could something like this be rhe explination for the bright flash of light that lit up the whole sky in central california today (the 31st) at about 6:20 am?

    • Most likely…fireballs often last only a second or two and if your back is turned all you would notice is the bright flash illuminating the ground.

      Robert Lunsford
      American Meteor Society

  11. Briana Gotkin says: October 31, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    I saw it! I was at McDonnald’s in Murray Ky around 6:10am and I just happened to glance up at just the right time! It was HUGE! I’ve never seen anything like it.

  12. Regina Dorn says: November 1, 2012 at 3:57 am

    I was on my way to work driving from west Sandsprings OK to to Tulsa, OK when I witnessed the green fireball in the southeast horizon. I thought i was imagining things. I have seen shooting stars but this makes the first meteor! It flashed a few times. I was amazed. So glad it wasn’t a figment of my imagination!

  13. Finally! I’ve been searching the news for this for two days! I saw the fireball too on Oct 30th around 1740CDT. As I was in Columbus Mississippi. I didn’t hear any sound from it (though I was walking by a highway so its sound could have been masked) but it was incredibly bright, flaming in and out as it shot through the sky. It reminded me of a bit of phosphorous on fire. It’s entire transit lasted about 5 seconds. I’m not from this area, but as best as I could determine by looking at Google Maps, it was in the northern half of my sky and traveling east to west.

  14. windy morris says: November 1, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Me and my family was on our way home from shopping and for some reason I looked up and saw this bright object falling out of the sky.I asked my husband did u see that;he said yes what was that.It was after 5pm where we live in Castleberry,Alabama.It freaked me out and my family.When we got home I turn on the TV to see if it was on the news no said anything about anything falling out of the sky.It worried me for days didn’t know what to do or who to tell;so I got on the computer and typed in something falling out of the sky on Oct.30,2012 and found this site.Glad to see I wasn’t the only one who saw something.

  15. Deseree Cundiff says: November 2, 2012 at 8:19 am

    My friend and I were in Augusta, GA (on Wallie Road at Plantation Blood) on 10/31/12 around 8ish. And we think we saw a shooting star. It looked like it had “sparks” coming from it. My friend said that if it was a meteor or a shooting star, that would be parts of the meteor breaking off. It was definitely going to fast to be a plane. And it was unlike anything I had seen before.

  16. I saw what I believe to be this Fireball falling from the sky just south of Nashville, Tn. The time is off, though. I saw this around 5:15-5:30PM on Tuesday, October 30th. Did anyone else see this or could this be the same thing? It looked like something on fire flying through the atmosphere. Way too high to be a firework.

  17. I live in Fl and when I was passing near the tampa international airport tonight 11/2/12 around 10pm I saw what I believe had to be a meteorite. It fell really close to the ground before buring out. I was with my mother and we both seen it.

  18. I saw the display of lights around 6:30 p.m. CST on Oct. 30 in Wichita, Kansas. I think they were meteors, around 7 or 8 of them. Never witnessed this before. Beautiful!!

  19. I filed a fireball meteor report on this site on the one I witnessed at 5:30 p.m. on October 30th. I don’t think it’s been processed yet…perhaps “pending?” I am still stunned over what I saw. I do hope this one gets investigated as it was quite dramatic. I live in Homewood, a community just to the south of Birmingham, AL. I was facing N/NW when I saw it descend in an up to down direction in the sky. Amazing.

  20. I saw a very large bright ball of light over trees a few blocks west at 11:24p Oct 31, 2012 downtown Memphis, TN. I immediately heard a tremendously loud impact clap. I know no one else that heard or saw it.

  21. Saw a green shooting star south and east of Nicosia, Cyprus, about 2 hours after sunset on November 3, 2012. It started as a sudden spherical burst that was dark green in color, then a dark green trail shot down from it in a narrow, perfectly straight line (almost like a laser) from east to west. It appeared to be very high in the sky and faded after about 2 seconds. I’m no expert; but, with so many reports of this phenomenon, I wonder if we’re seeing bits of space junk falling back to earth, possibly something with a composition which burns with a green flame.

  22. where do i go to report a meteor report? this evening my husband and i watched just about 10 minutes ago something falling from the sky that appeared to look like something on fire falling straight down out of the sky….i have never seen anything like this before…as we looked through a telescope it looked like a ball of fire…I know it soons crazy but we know what we saw.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>