The American Meteor Society has received over 125 reports of a bright meteor that occurred near 23:00 (11:00pm GMT) on Friday September 21, 2012, over the United Kingdom and Ireland. Brightness estimates of this fireball vary considerably, but the average lies near magnitude -13, which is equivalent to the light produced by the full moon. Every color of the rainbow has been reported with orange being the most predominant. Evidently this object lasted much longer than the average fireball and a majority of the reports mentioned fragmentation. Summaries of individual reports may be viewed in the 2012 AMS Fireball Table Refer to event #1379 for 2012.
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.
American Meteor Society
9/22/2012 – UPDATE on UK Ireland Fireball
Here is a map of all observations reported to the AMS for this event. Â Click the image below for an interactive Google Map for this event. Once the map is loaded you can click the icons to read the reports.
Red icons represent movement left to right, while green means movement right to left. The green lines show the azimuth where the fireball was first seen and yellow is the azimuth where it was last seen.
The AMS asks witnesses to selfÂ evaluateÂ their astronomy and observing experience. Â The map below shows only reports where the witness rated themselves with experience level >= 3.
If you witnessed this event please, submit an official fireball report with the American Meteor Society.
Numerous videos of this meteor have been captured. Here is one that clearly shows the fragments :
More great videos of this event on the Bad Astronomy Blog.
American Meteor Society