8
Jan
2013

Fireball over NE USA January 5th, 2013

The American Meteor Society has received 50 reports of a bright meteor that occurred near 06:33 EST on Saturday evening January 5, 2013. Brightness estimates of this fireball vary considerably, but the average lies near magnitude -18, which lies between the light produced by the full moon and the sun. Every color of the rainbow has been reported with green being most mentioned. Below is a map of the witness reports for the NE USA fireball event and can also be found in the fireball logs, refer to event 28 for 2013. Click the image below to see the interactive event map.

January 5th, 2013 East Coast Fireball

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 →
3 Responses
  1. I was traveling east in Saranac Lake, NY @ 1830-1835 when I saw this bright, slower & closer than normal meteor traveling downward @ 45 degree angle, it disappeared behind the moutains or horizon. VERY IMPRESSIVE, when I got to work, I had to tell them, and well, the people at work were calling me Beatrice from Men in Black!


  2. Patrick McLaughlin says: January 12, 2013 at 2:52 am

    I saw a very bright meteor/fireball on this same day, about an hour earlier (it was still daylight, but the sun was starting to set) as I was traveling north on IN Hwy 63 towards Terre Haute, IN, just south of the prison. The object was falling very fast at a 45 degree angle or so, from west to east, and was VERY bright at the end of its trajectory. If you held a ruler at arms length it was about 3/4″ to an inch across the sky. Never seen anything like it in daylight!


  3. my boyfriend and i were driving through a part of pennsylvania ( i don’t remember where, but we were heading to NYC so south eastern Penn.) sometime between 6 and 7 pm on Jan. 5th 2013. coming around a bend in the highway, we were in the midst of conversation when we both stopped and i could do nothing more than just point ahead of us. There was a bright ball, moving from left to right, very quickly! at first i assumed it was just a shooting star, but while i watched it ( it was only viewable for probably 3 seconds) i noticed how big it was, how bright it was, and that it had a large tail to it. The more i think about it the more i think it was fire, and not so much glowing ( as most shooting stars look). i haven’t thought too much about it until just today, when i finally decided to google and see if anyone else saw the same thing. nice to know we weren’t crazy. :)


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=""> <strike> <strong>