Daylight Fireball over Central New York

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More than 150 reports from 7 states

The AMS received more than 150 reports so far about a daylight fireball event that occurred over New York on December 2nd, 2020 around 12:08pm EST (17:08 Universal Time). The AMS #2020-7267 event was mainly seen from the New York and Ontario but we also received reports from Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

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If you want to learn more about Fireballs: read our Fireball FAQ.

Loud Boom, trajectory and videos

Dozen of people contacted local media area about a loud boom heard at the time of the event in central New York. When a very bright fireball penetrates to the stratosphere, below an altitude of about 30 miles (50 km), and explodes as a bolide, there is a chance that sonic booms may be heard on the ground below. NASA analysis of the event shown that the parent meteoroid at the origin of the event entered Earth’s atmosphere over upper New York, between Rochester and Syracuse. Traveling westward at 56,000 miles per hour (90,000 km/h), it broke into pieces at an altitude of approximately 22 miles (35 km), producing a bright flash reported by the public and caught in videos.

The bolide was detected by the Geostationary Lightning Mapper onboard the GOES 16 weather satellite. The ground track of the event computed by NASA shows that the fireball was travelling from North East to South West and ended its visible flight somewhere over the Cayuga Lake, NY.

Sed Dog enthousiast Bekka Gunner was lucky enough to catch the event on camera while dog sledding in Royalton, near the Erie, Genesee border:

Fireball, Bolide?

Several thousand meteors of fireball magnitude occur in the Earth’s atmosphere each day. The vast majority of these, however, occur over the oceans and uninhabited regions, and a good many are masked by daylight. Those that occur at night also stand little chance of being detected due to the relatively low numbers of persons out to notice them.

Additionally, the brighter the fireball, the more rare is the event. As a general thumb rule, there are only about 1/3 as many fireballs present for each successively brighter magnitude class, following an exponential decrease. Experienced observers can expect to see only about 1 fireball of magnitude -6 or better for every 200 hours of meteor observing, while a fireball of magnitude -4 can be expected about once every 20 hours or so.

AMS TERMINOLOGY

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20 comments

  • Sue Foster 10 months ago

    I teach Earth Science in CNY; I truly appreciate the assembly of all this information. This is one of those teachable moments as many students heard or felt the event. The lesson plan for the next few days was tossed aside and replaced with this event. Thank you!

    Reply to Sue
    • Mary Diorio 10 months ago

      You sound like my history teacher in high school. He taught me to love history and i was exempt from the regents in history the following year.
      Teachers, like yourself, who feel comfortable changing their program for something like this fireball are the ones that inspire the most young people. Refreshing.

      Reply to Mary
  • Ed serembus 10 months ago

    Heard it all the way down on eastern shore of Md. .Dismissed it as fighter jet from patient going supersonic .

    Reply to Ed
    • Robert Lunsford 10 months ago

      Ed and All,

      Sorry but the sonic boom from this fireball was only hear in the vicinity of Syracuse, NY. You may have seen it from Maryland but the sound was only heard in the vicinity of where it entered the stratosphere.

      Reply to Robert
      • Bob Pierce 10 months ago

        We heard it in Winooski, Vermont – just north of Burlington near Lake Champlain. It actually shook the commercial building that our offices are located in.

        Reply to Bob
      • Thomas S Tokarz 10 months ago

        If so, the loud “boom” we heard must have been from the quite violent, sharp shaking we experienced in Michigan on the Lake Erie shore. Hard to believe a compression wave would affect us that far away, but there you have it.

        Reply to Thomas
  • Sandra 10 months ago

    They had one over Japan a few days ago ,it was as bright as the moon ,it also had a large boom with it, this is very interesting !

    Reply to Sandra
    • Aaron Kadison 10 months ago

      The 50 foot one that exploded over Chelyabinsk Russia in 2013 was several times brighter than the sun. It drew everyone to their windows to see the fireball, but light travels faster than sound, so when the blast wave hit, which when it exploded 10 or 15 miles above the city it had 30 times the explosive force of the nuke we dropped on Hiroshima in WW2, it shattered every window in the city and sent 1600 people to the hospital with injuries from the broken glass and knocking them off their feet. If it was just slightly larger, more dense, or came in at a steeper angle it would have killed thousands of people instead of injuring them. But the good thing is 1, nobody died, and 2 maybe more importantly, it brought awareness about asteroid impacts to the politicians who had been grossly underfunding the search for potentially hazardous asteroids and how to deal with them since everyone in Chelyabinsk has a dashcam to prevent the widespread insurance fraud there, so there’s hundreds of videos of it on YouTube smashing windows of buildings and cars and knocking people across the room on cctv cams. Pretty cool footage if you get a few minutes free. But anyway that was only 18 meters in diameter and did all that damage without even making contact with the Earth. So it brought attention to the threat of larger ones. NASA budget towards PHA’s has increased 10 or 20 times over in the 7 years since it happened and they’re sending up a space telescope in 2022 that within a decade will locate and track the orbits of 90% of asteroids over 140 meters in diameter and be able to tell exactly when potential impacts may occur. 140 meters is considered a “city killer” asteroid, since if one that size hit or exploded above NYC or London it would instantly kill everyone in the city. Right now we know less than 10% of those so while they’re rare, the consequences would be potentially devastating far beyond what any other natural disaster could do. Even if the Yellowstone supervolcano erupted it would most likely kill way less people than a 100+ meter asteroid hitting or exploding above a densely populated city with no warning time for evacuation.

      Reply to Aaron
    • Jay Gee 10 months ago

      There was one on Nov. 28 in Germany two days later in Nov. 30 one in Japan two days later on Dec 2 one in the States/Canada…

      Reply to Jay
      • Robert Lunsford 10 months ago

        Jay and Everyone,

        Yes, but the first two were not daylight fireballs which makes the event over central New York special. Fireballs occur every day of the year, just look at our reports since 2005. They also occur during the daylight hours but most of these are obscured by the blinding sunlight. It takes a large, bright fireball to be seen during the day.

        Reply to Robert
  • Jolene M Quinlan 10 months ago

    I was asleep when my two kids rushed in to tell me that something blew up nearby… the house and windows rattled. My cats were all bushy tailed and nervous. We checked outside and found nothing. This occurred at about 2am on Dec 2nd, approx 12 hours before your reports. I thought about all the reasons and actual used the Chebelansk (excuse my spelling) Meteor to explain to my kids what it might have been… shock wave from a small meteor. I live in Mid Michigan at the far western end of your mapped reports.
    While we have no proof, I find the coincidence of my explanation interesting.

    Reply to Jolene
    • Thomas S Tokarz 10 months ago

      Hi from Monroe, MI. A neighbor said her son reported the same boom/rattle occurring at the same time you did. Possibly both from a larger rock broken up a long time ago??

      Reply to Thomas
  • Thomas S Tokarz 10 months ago

    Loud boom and our 2nd floor apartment shook and rattled hard. Thought it was another earthquake like a recent 3.2 a mile from us in Lake Erie!

    Reply to Thomas
  • Douglas B Smith 10 months ago

    If you go out at night, you can see all kinds of meteors, sometimes one every few minutes! This past summer I saw 2 that were green, I suppose they had a lot of copper in them!

    Reply to Douglas
  • Nick B. 10 months ago

    I was at lunch from work and happened to back up my truck facing east in Livonia, MI. I just happened to look up and see a almost silver, very bright streak, shoot on a slight angle towards the ground and disappear. This was on Dec. 2 and I texted a family member as soon as I saw it. That was at noon. Did anyone else possibly see this one. It was wild to see.

    Reply to Nick
    • Robert Lunsford 10 months ago

      Nick and All,

      The meteor you witnessed was the same one that occurred over central New York…

      Reply to Robert

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