23
Jan
2013

Northeastern USA, Ontario Canada Fireball January 21/22, 2013

The American Meteor Society has received 65 reports of a bright meteor that occurred near midnight on Monday night/Tuesday morning January 21/22, 2013. Brightness estimates of this fireball vary considerably, but the average lies near magnitude -20, which lies between the light produced by the full moon and that of the sun. Every color of the rainbow has been reported with green and white being most mentioned. Reports ranged from North Carolina to Ontario, Canada, the Atlantic coastline inland as far as the Ohio/Pennsylvania border. Individual reports may be viewed in the 2013 AMS Fireball Table Refer to event #166 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. 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 →
6 Responses
  1. Yes, I saw it too. I was driving to PA from MD and saw it. It seemed to be at the end of streaking then the very large fireball appeared to burst then disappeared (I was heading North and it was in the 10:00 position in the sky when I could see the large bright orange ball. It was midnight.


  2. I saw it from Beaverton Oregon. 8:55pm pacific time, Jan 21. It was falling between North Star and Bigger Dipper. Falling vertically with a long streak and exploded into a big fireball at the end.


  3. I saw it in Toms River, N.J., I thought it was yellow and green. It’s amazing how different the color description are.


  4. My wife and I saw it too. From inside our house. It streaked brilliantly across the sky then exploded in a huge flash. It was fast, very fast. The whole event we witnessed was no more than a second or so long. Our view again was limited since we were inside the house. The hue I saw was blusish…almost like an electrical transformer exploding. It lit up our yard and even inside the house for a brief second, and we had lights on in our house. It was bright…real bright. It must have been around midnight when we saw it. It was a very cold clear night Jnauary 21 into Jan 22. I went outside immediately to see if there was a smoke trail. I did not see any. I also waited for any delayed sound, but heard none.

    It was one of those events you go ” Holy SH _ T !!!” It was that spectacular. We live in Northwestern NJ about 50 miles northwest of New York City. We have a pretty good view of the sky from inside our living room since our house faces north overlooking a large 8 mi long lake.


  5. I saw it in Montreal. I reported it as soon as I returned home , but there is no record of my report. Definitely at 6:00.
    Was very big and bright. Moved quickly and had a tail. Amazing !


  6. I was driving home from working the 3-11 shift in Clarks Summit Pa. I was still on my way home and at the time of about 2350 I was just passing the Christopher Columbus statue in Pittston Pa when I saw a bright blue/purple flash that illuminated the sky.


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