28
Jan
2013

Mid-Eastern USA Fireball January 27, 2013

The American Meteor Society has received 30 reports of a bright meteor that occurred near 2130 (9:30pm EST) on Sunday evening January 27, 2013. Brightness estimates of this fireball vary considerably, but the average lies near magnitude -13, which equals the light produced by the full moon. Every color of the rainbow has been reported with orange and yellow being most mentioned. The area in which this object was seen is extraordinarily large, indicating the possibility that two fireballs may have occurred at a similar time. The witnesses range from mid-New York to northern Georgia and South Carolina. There is also the possibility that this object was the satellite Cosmos 1484, which was predicted to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere near the time of the fireball’s appearance. Individual reports may be viewed in the 2013 AMS Fireball Table Refer to event #206 for 2013.

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. There is often a common misconception that the object appeared nearby when in fact the actual flight path 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 →
5 Responses
  1. Bert K. Fisher says: January 29, 2013 at 9:55 am

    I lve in Lynchburg, Va, Sunday night Jan. 27, 2013 I steped out on my Southern exposure deck and spotted a large very large [meteor] About 9-10 pm I expected report from news media but nothing. Thanks for your report it cleared up my questions.


  2. I was flying to nyc and saw it from the plane about 10 pm


  3. Shellie Thorne says: February 15, 2013 at 11:02 am

    i was just north of Scranton PA that evening,driving north on 81. My daughter-in-law and I were heading back towards Fort Drum and saw the “meteor” streak across the sky. It was very large with a long trail (tail) of bright orange and yellow and traveled the entire length of the horizon in front of us. At first I thought it was a very large shooting star but soon knew otherwise. Absolutely amazing to see and disturbing at the same time, especially knowing now about the meteor actually hitting in Russia today!


  4. i was laying back on the hood of my car in north georgia aound 10ish when i saw a fireball appear and streak across half the sky. i was in aww. ive told everyone i know they all said i was crazy thanks for confirming this!


  5. My wife and I saw it driving west on Rt. 78 in Northern NJ. Had to admit I was a bit scared of a possible airburst. Fortunately it was too small.


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