5
Dec
2012

Midwest USA Fireball December 5, 2012

The American Meteor Society has received 15 reports of a bright meteor that occurred near 21:30 (9:30pm CST) on Tuesday December 4, 2012. A majority of the reports have been received from Missouri, but observers located in Texas and Illinois have also reported seeing this object. Brightness estimates of this fireball vary considerably, but the average lies near in excess of magnitude-13, which is brighter than the light produced by the full moon.. Every color of the rainbow has been reported with yellow and orange being most mentioned. Individual reports may be viewed in the 2012 AMS Fireball Table Refer to event #2069 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 →
8 Responses
  1. Ronni P Kingery says: December 5, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    My wife and I live in Southern Indiana ( Mt. Vernon IN.) While in our outdoor hot tub on 12-04-12 around 9:30 we saw the meteor. We could even see a smoke trail lit by the moonlight once the meteor burned out. Igt was traveling in a westward direction.

    Ron Kingery


  2. My boyfriend and I saw this exact thing at around that same time here in Janesville, WI. We were driving on I-90, on our way home from the movies. We were hoping someone else saw it too, so it didn’t seem like we were crazy! It happened really fast, it was there and gone before I could get my phone out for a photo.


  3. Kathleen Drake says: December 8, 2012 at 12:34 am

    I saw it here in Overland Park, Kansas. I was leaving work and happened to look up and see this amazing site. And to know that this happens only once or twice in a lifetime makes it priceless!


  4. Euna Whitehead says: December 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    My husband and I were out walking our dog (12/04/2012 Madison, WI ) and I saw what I thought was a Aircraft moving fast across the sky than it occurred to me that it was moving to fast for a Airplane, the closer it got to the earth I could see that it was a Fireball/Meteorite. I got so excited that I posted it on my FaceBook page the next day.


  5. me and my daughter saw this coming home from dance class, while in the car, she pointed it out to me, or I would have missed it.
    Hannibal, Mo.


  6. Katie patterson says: December 17, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Saw fireball Dec. 4 at app. 9:30 in northwestern sky. Was bluish in color, like a LED light. Extremely large and bright with a tail that lingered for a minute or more. Was very slow moving, had nothing to do with the not toddies consumed.


  7. Took the dog outside about 9:30 PM.on 12/4/12 I happened to look up in the sky and saw this fireball coming towards me. I was kind of freaked out because it looked like it was low in the sky and I thought it was going to fall to earth. I watched it for about 10 seconds while it passed by. It was bright orange and had a tail to it. I even called the police and asked if anyone else had reported it. They said no. It was traveling from North East to South West. I live in Farmington Minnesota.


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