Upper Mid-West Fireball May 11, 2012

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The American Meteor Society has so far received 25 reports of a bright fireball over the upper Midwestern states and southern Canada. This event occurred near 10:00pm CDT Friday evening May 11th. Most of the reports are of a green or blue object or a combination of the two colors.  The average brightness reported by witnesses was just less than the light produced by a full moon. Individual reports may be viewed in the 2012 AMS Fireball Table . Refer to event number 650.

A fireball is a meteor that is larger than normal. Most meteors are only the size of tiny 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 can also occur during the day (when the blinding sun can obscure them), or on a cloudy night, or over the ocean where there is no one to witness them. Observing during one of the major annual meteor showers can increase your chance of seeing another bright meteor.

Fireballs often appear much closer than they really are. The AMS receives countless reports that an object landed just over the hill when in fact it was several hundred miles away and was witnessed over several states or provinces. 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 and close to the ground, 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.

Clear Skies!

Robert Lunsford



  • C 12 years ago

    I saw the meteor on May 11, 2012. I am located in St. Croix Falls, Wi and was looking West, Northwest.

    Reply to C
  • Marcy 12 years ago

    5 of us oberved this while sitting around a bonfire. It was right around 2200 in Fargo, ND. It went from East to West and must have lasted about 6 seconds. It was bright bluish green and left a trail. I posted to Facebook asking if anyone else had seen it and one saw from Grand Forks, ND and another in SD.

    Reply to Marcy
    • Janet 12 years ago

      We were sitting around a bonfire just east of Leech Lake in Walker, MN when we saw this! Bright blue green and nice long tail. We were looking due east and it seemed to be traveling north/north east from our perspective!

      Reply to Janet
  • Mark 12 years ago

    My son and I saw it at approximately 9:45 in the evening in Altona, Manitoba on May 11th, 2012. We are located about 7 miles from the North Dakota border.

    Reply to Mark
    • Corilynne Mousseau 12 years ago

      It was on the evening on May 11,2012 we were just heading south on highway 50 ,it was approxiamately 9:55 ,it was the most amazing thing I have ever seen,it was blue green as it got closer it was getting pretty big ,it was so fascinating …it just looked like a bright star ,with sparkles at the end,It really was a sight to remember the best thing i could have wished for to see on my birthday!!

      Reply to Corilynne
  • Sarah 12 years ago

    last night around 21-2200 looking to the WNW, I saw the fireball in southeastern mn. It lasted around 5 seconds and had a green glow and left a trail. Very pretty

    Reply to Sarah
  • shequila 12 years ago

    Many people saw it in bemidji, mn and cass lake, mn. My friend said it turned purple too.

    Reply to shequila
  • Colin 12 years ago

    I saw this while driving east on I-94 near Sauk Centre, MN at 2200 central on May 11, 2012. It flashed into view to the south of the highway, and quickly became the brightest object in the sky. Very bright green fireball, with a samller green fireball in the long white tail. I have never seen one that lasted so long before, and then it just went out. Really amazing sight.

    Reply to Colin
  • Calvin 12 years ago

    Me and a couple friends saw this from just south of winkler Manitoba, about ten miles north of North Dakota. We were looking straight south. It had a long blue tail and it broke into three pieces before disappearing.

    Reply to Calvin
  • Eric 12 years ago

    I also saw it in Rochester, MN around 2200. Very impressive. Bright blue and turning towards more of a greenish color and briefly had even a purplish color. It left a long tail and small pieces were breaking off as it went. I’m first saw it at an elevation of approximately 70-80 degrees, tracked towards the west and disappeared at about an elevation of around 40 degrees. By far the most impressive meteor I’ve ever seen. I’m assuming it completely burned up on reentry.

    Reply to Eric
  • Robert 12 years ago

    I saw the meteor in the sky a little south of our house on LONG Lake, 2 miles west of Detroit Lakes MN. it was huge and ran over our tree tops at a very distant attitude, keeping a westward track and a duration of 5-10 minutes. it was green with a trail and fizzled out before going out of sight.

    Reply to Robert
    • Robert 12 years ago

      oops it was an altitude and lasted 5-10 seconds.

      Reply to Robert
  • James 12 years ago

    Sitting around a campfire in Sauk Centre Minnesota – 4 of us saw it. Beautiful.

    Reply to James
  • Joan 12 years ago

    Since we’re in the “flyway” of the Grand Forks (ND) AFB I first thought it was a descending aircraft. But the sparkler-like nose and long, white tail were clearly visible as the fireball appeared from behind the leafing ash trees on our farm at 10:00 Friday evening (May 11), nearly horizontal as it flew east to west. Its speed was relatively slow. What a site! I witnessed a similar phenomenon several years ago and feel lucky to have had this second opportunity! Now, if I could only get the date and time of a spectacular Northern Lights display ! : )
    25 miles south of Grand Forks, ND

    Reply to Joan
  • Terina 12 years ago

    I saw the fireball, we were outside of Cumberland, WI around a bonfire, and briefly saw a blue/green ball of light falling, leaving a trail before it fell out of sight. Most impressive!!

    Reply to Terina
  • Shannon 12 years ago

    I saw it while traveling west on MN State Hwy 27 between Onamia and Hillman about 10:15pm lasting what seemed like 10 seconds. The color was incredible!

    Reply to Shannon
  • safaa al musalhi 12 years ago

    i saw it in the middle east (sultante of oman/Muscat) by around 11 pm ! was colorful and for a moment i thought its gonna hit us ! amazing scary feeling 🙂 ! ! i hope i get to see another one since you only get to see 1 or 2 in a life time !

    Reply to safaa
  • Rhonda 12 years ago

    My husband and I along with some friends saw it also while we were sitting around the campfire at Itasca state Park, Mn.

    Reply to Rhonda
  • Christa 12 years ago

    May 11th at 10:05pm Central
    Saw it in the south from east to west

    From Southern Manitoba

    Reply to Christa
  • kristine 12 years ago

    I saw it from central MN, (Bainerd) l ooking south, it was a very awesome sight!

    Reply to kristine
  • Chopper McBride 12 years ago

    Friday May 11 2012, fantastic sight to the south of me, I was on Black Bay of Rainy Lake near International Falls MN on the Canadian border. About 10:00, blue/green sparks, tail behind it, seemed to me about the size of a golf ball if I held it out, made the bay as bright as if a huge full moon was shining. I’ve seen 4 this good in my life, everyone should see something like this. This was not a shower, this lasted 8 seconds, east to west, wow.Chopper

    Reply to Chopper
  • Andy 12 years ago

    I saw it while driving along US14 west of Arlington,SD. It was to the north and traveled east to west.

    Reply to Andy
  • Mike 12 years ago

    My wife witnessed it for about 7 seconds in Grand Forks, ND. She is in such awe that should really could tell me what was so interesting so i could view it too. It was a bright green with a very long train that sparked like fireworks. Originally she thought it was a fireworks, but she quickly realized it was not, but was not quite sure what she had just witnessed. I am very glad to her and see that soo many other people were part of this all to rare phenomenon. This was right aroung 10 PM CST on May 11th.

    Reply to Mike
  • Paul 12 years ago

    I saw it over the lake our cabin is on in Britt, MN (about 85 miles due north of Duluth, MN) around 10pm. It was heading from SE to NW for 5+ seconds. It had a couple of pieces fall away from it all in a green and green/blue tone. I heard several other viewers shout out to each other at other cabins south of ours. That was pretty amazing.

    Reply to Paul
  • Brian 12 years ago

    Yes, I saw the fireball on May 11th just before 10:00 pm. not sure of the exact time. At first it looked like a plane going across the horizon. It was a bright white light that all of the sudden had bright green sparks flying off of it. Right before the thing disappeared, it seemed to turn from green to yellow and then nothing. It was traveling from the South to the North. Maybe a little SE to NW. That was how it looked from Rapid City, SD. One of the most amazing things that I have seen in the night sky.

    Reply to Brian
  • Andy 12 years ago

    Saw it while doing some late night walleye fishing in eastern SD. Thought it was lightning but then turned around to see it for a couple seconds. Pretty impressive, second one I have ever seen in my 20 years of life

    Reply to Andy
  • Angel 12 years ago

    My 14 year old son took me out for supper and to a movie the evening of May 11th for a Mothers Day gift. At 10:00pm we were heading West on Hwy 2 to Bagley, MN on our way home when we noticed the fireball. It reminded us of a large professional firework being shot off and when we witnessed the bright green sparks we were waiting for it to explode as if it was the 4th of July. When the light just suddenly went out we began discussing the possibilities.
    What a wonderful gift to have witnessed with my son, created wonderful conversation.

    Reply to Angel
  • Tami 12 years ago

    My husband and I were just reaching our car in the Menards parking lot in Alexandria Minnesota when it appeared in the southeastern sky traveling westward it streaked red to white then blue then through the same color sequence again I couldn’t keep my “oh wow’s ” quiet so several other people in the parking lot also stopped and watched. What an incredibly awesome sight to behold!!

    Reply to Tami
  • Paul Gordon 12 years ago

    I am very glad to have been lucky enough to see such an impressive fireball. I was on a flight from Ottawa to Calgary and I saw it out my window, I was on the left side of the plane, so it was broadly to the south of me. It lasted for 3-5 seconds and started as a bright orange ball with white tail, then turned bluish-green before fading out. The last tiny glimpse I had of it was orange again. It had quite a flat trajectory (I would say no steeper than 10 degrees) and was travelling roughly from east to west. I was somewhere near the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border.

    I was travelling alone, and everyone around me was asleep, so I had no-one to share the moment with. I’m so happy to have found that so many others saw it too, and feel quite privileged to be part of this select group.


    Reply to Paul
  • Elizabeth Walton 12 years ago

    My boyfriend and I saw this in Monticello MN. The color was so amazing. It was so fast, bright, low and huge we were a little scared and searching in the area it seemed to have “landed” for a few minutes expecting to see flames from a crash landing. Definetly had goosebumps for hours afterward while thinking of it.

    Reply to Elizabeth
  • Ana 12 years ago

    My daughter and I saw a bight orange fireball on Saturday June 1st, 2012 at approx 9:45: PM on the Western Sky of north shore of Long Island, New York on the Western Sky. It traveled as a bright orange ball for what appeared to be at least 30 seconds and then faded to a black mass which disappeared into the clouds. A beautiful strange sight which has caused us to keep questioning this mystery.

    Reply to Ana
  • Anne 12 years ago

    June 16th, 2012 approx 11:33 pm
    I was outside and saw this flying burning object in sky, came from the east to the west and then went north am in London Ontario and have never ever seen this before.. couldn’t get camera fast enough to get a picture.. not noise whatsoever.. and moved too quickly for helicopter … helicopters don’t look like they burning and moving away from you.

    Reply to Anne
  • Kathy Stratton 12 years ago

    My mother and I were driving in Bemidji, MN on Saturday, March 23, 2013 at around 1:00 a.m. and we saw a green ball of light falling from the night sky. It was such a very pretty green light that I was in awe of it. I told my mother that must be a meteor shower of some sort! I told her that was a very amazing sight to see. It fell so fast in the sky and it looked like it was so close that it might touch down a mile or so in front of us! I was hoping others saw such a scarey, beautiful sight as we had. Where did it touch down? Does anyone know? Email me at downkittykat@yahoo.com

    Reply to Kathy
  • Jenna 12 years ago

    Me family and I saw a blue/green ball of light falling from the sky in Taylor’s Falls, MN while we were driving west. The light was southwest of us.

    Reply to Jenna

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