The AMS received nearly 150 reports this morning of a bright fiery object traveling from the east to the west over southern Wyoming and northern Colorado.
Many of the witnesses reported a slow moving object with a long duration spanning 20 seconds. This is an atypical meteor event because most fireball meteors last only 3-5 seconds. Slower moving, longer lasting fireballs are generally associated with satellites or other types of man-made space debris re-entering the atmosphere. However, there are exceptions and Earth grazing fireballs can appear to move slower and be visible for longer periods of time. The estimated 3D trajectory computed from the witness reports shows an extremely shallow entry angle, one that could be associated with an Earth grazing fireball.
Additionally the re-entry of space debris tends to span a longer distance. Two space debris reentry events over Colorado last year covered over a 1,000 mile ground track, where as the event this morning appears to have only span a distance of 150 miles.
We are investigating further, but as of now it is not certain if this event was a fireball meteor or space trash.
If you witnessed this event, please fill out an official fireball report.
Below is the heat map of the witness reports:
Chris Peterson of Cloudbait Observatory operates an all sky camera network in Colorado and caught the fireball on one of his cameras.
This is what Chris had to say about the event:
Space junk can’t be excluded, but I agree it appears more like a natural meteor. I might estimate the ground path at about 300 miles, but that’s just an educated guess using the single camera. If so, that places the velocity in the 30-40 km/s range, which is very typical for a meteor, but excludes a reentry. It’s not exceptionally bright, so I’d suggest it was at high altitude and had only a very shallow descent angle.