New England Fireball January 23, 2013

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The American Meteor Society has received 50 reports of a bright meteor that occurred just after 1800 (6pm EST) on Wednesday evening January 23, 2013. Brightness estimates of this fireball vary considerably, but the average lies near magnitude -15, which slightly exceeds the light produced by the full moon. Every color of the rainbow has been reported with green and yellow being most mentioned. A majority of the reports come from the Boston area but they range from Connecticut and Rhode Island to the south, the Atlantic coastline on the east, Maine to the north, and central New York to the west. Individual reports may be viewed in the 2013 AMS Fireball Table Refer to event #181 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



  • Rachel 9 years ago

    I saw this last night as well while driving North on Great Rd. in Acton, MA sometime after 6 pm. I was on the phone with my mother at the time and started screaming in her ear: OMG A METEOR!!!!! LOL.

    Reply to Rachel
  • Jeff 9 years ago

    It was just after 6pm and I was driving north on interstate 395 in oxford,ma @the depot rd. exit aprox. 8 miles south of worcester,ma . I saw this green,blue white yellow ball with a long trail that lasted about 3 sec. It was awesome never have I seen anything like this! So I did a search when I got home and today sure enough a new england fireball with over 50 accts. Was traveling east to west @ I think what I would consider a 45 degree angle if my math is correct. is that what u saw rachel?

    Reply to Jeff
  • Me! 9 years ago

    Omg I saw this while driving last night I thought it was a plane crashing because it was orange like fire. It was HUGE!

    Reply to Me!
  • shawn powers 9 years ago

    I saw this as well in Franklin, Ma at about 6:20 pm EST. It was much bigger than a “shooting star” you see during a meteor shower. It looked like a small plane on fire…going a little faster than a jet would.

    Reply to shawn
  • Matt 9 years ago

    I saw it in Ashby MA while driving home. It was very big and bright.
    Watched it just disappear in an instant.
    One of the most incredible sights I have ever witnessed.
    Somebody I work with saw it also, and he was 2 hours away in NH.

    Reply to Matt
  • Sean Bahner-Guhin 9 years ago


    This morning 6:02AM EST, from Morrisonville NY, USA- Northeastern Adirondacks, I was walking the dogs when what I thought was somebody’s Halogen headlights on High Beam lit up my field of vision (Daylight bright) and when I turned to face it, there was nothing there. So I looked up (Due West @~45-50 degrees) in time to catch the second act of a serious meteor contrail (bright red, traveling north to south, right to left, angling downward) that shortly thereafter exploded a second time (I assume), into a brilliant fireball that showered bright red sparks that were visible for a full second+ Entire event was 7-9 seconds from First flash to fade. Simply the single greatest one of these I’ve seen and I chckc the the darkened sky at least twice a day due to waling the dogs. I onw a 6″ Celestron reflector and know a little bit about what I’m looking at, and this was spectacular! Possibly a cluster thing? Anyway, so far I’ve found no other reports, but at ~ -20 f this am I wouldn’t blame anyone for wanting to be inside and warm! ;^D


    Reply to Sean
  • Sean Bahner-Guhin 9 years ago

    Forgot to mention, No sound I heard, but the dogs lit up and pressed the bark button, but the light alone might have triggered that. It was also brighter than the moon on the second flare, and I was assuming over NY with the sparks ‘falling’ to the western Adirondacks or Central NY, but given the brilliance, I really couldn’t tell how far west against the planet, but based on a current absence of other reports I’m thinking localized…

    Reply to Sean
  • Donnarose 9 years ago

    Got the perfect view from start to finish. A perfect arc starting due north in the mid-sky ahead of me and burning out at the northwestern horizon on Route 495 northbound near Bolton Massachusetts. Lingering over 2 seconds. Quite white, and fairly intense brightness, well over the full moon level. A very pretty Meteorite!

    Reply to Donnarose
  • joe 9 years ago

    I saw the fireball in harris ny at 12pm on jan 23 2013 i was in a field looking for my pup dog because he was chasing deer in 0 degree wether i was flowing his tracks and when i stoped to call him and the hole field lit up britter then the moon. I looked up in the sky and saw a big white Meteorite breaking up with a long tail that lasted for 3 to 4 seconds coming from the south east to the north wast it was beautful.

    Reply to joe
  • Maureen 9 years ago

    I was traveling west on rt. 119 in Groton and saw this amazing sight at approx. 6:05 pm. It was so bright and large so I knew it wasn’t a shooting star. I heard callers on the radio on Friday morning calling in saying they just saw something similar but this one was at 6:05 that morning.

    Reply to Maureen
  • Linda 9 years ago

    I saw one last night, Sun. 1/27, around 10 pm, from Methuen, MA. It appeared bright white and round, not really any ‘tail’. Never saw anything like it, quite wild – so wish I had a camera/video camera!!! Came home and checked frequently online for any sightings last night, but no reports. Glad to find this report and find out was it was that I saw, since I may never see another one like it! So cool! Wish I knew where it finally landed…

    Reply to Linda
  • Karen 9 years ago

    I also saw this on Jan 23rd around 6 pm or so. I was heading North on I-91 in Holyoke, MA. What I saw was big, low to the ground and had a bright green tail.

    Reply to Karen
  • Jenn 9 years ago

    I saw this that night as I was walking to my house from driver’s ed around 8 pm, and was commenting on how many stars there were and how clear the sky was. Next thing I knew both my mother and I saw the meteor as it went past. It was like a falling star, but there wasn’t any tail. I think this is the meteor we saw, anyway. We live in the quiet corner of CT, these things rarely happen here 🙂

    Reply to Jenn

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