Awesome Fireball Event in central Russia

2012 DA14 may not be on a collision course with Earth later today but a smaller asteroid was. A major fireball (and most likely also a meteorite dropping event) occurred over the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia. Chelyabinsk is a city of 1+ million people located just to the East of the Ural Mountains and just north of the Russia-Kazakhstan border.

The fireball that occurred there this morning appeared brighter than the Sun and produced a sonic boom that shattered windows causing flying glass-induced injuries to hundreds of people. A large building in town also seems to have been damaged. Though it is still uncertain if this was due to a large meteorite or the sonic boom.

An event like this happening only hours before the close flyby of the ~45-meter in diameter asteroid 2012 DA14, begs the question of whether the two are linked. It is probably unlikely that the Chelyabinsk fireball and 2012 DA14 are related. Luckily there are so many great videos of the fireball that an accurate orbit for the asteroid that caused the fireball should be easily determined.

[Update: 2012 DA14 and the Russian fireball can not be related. The radiant (the region of the sky that a DA14 or a piece of DA14 would appear to come from) of DA14 is at the very far southern declination of -81 degrees. This is the reason why DA14 is only visible from the southern hemisphere as it approaches Earth. A radiant that far south could not produce a fireball over Russia which is in the northern hemisphere. Any pieces of DA14 would only be able to impact Earth over the southern hemisphere or a few degrees north of the Equator. The fact that the Russian fireball and the 2012 DA14 close approach are happening on the same day is just a coincidence.]

Up-to-date information can be found at RT, here and here, and RMNB.

Many videos have been posted. The first 2 show the fireball itself. The last 2 are videos of the resulting contrail. What is very impressive about the last two is that the videos also caught the sonic boom. In one of the videos you can hear glass shattering in the background. Simply awesome…

Southwest US Fireball – September 14

A brilliant fireball was observed over southern California, Nevada, Arizona and Sonora on Wednesday evening, September 14. Hundreds of reports have been submitted to the American Meteor Society, and even a few to this blog. The best site for learning more about this event and other fireball events is at the American Meteor Society. Their page dedicated to this fireball (including a map of all reported eyewitnesses) can be found here.

An eyewitness in southern California was able to get a video of the event.

Down in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, Salvador Aguirre picked up the fireball on his all-sky camera. In the image below, the fireball is seen low on the horizon to the NNW of Hermosillo.

September 14 fireball seen from Hermosillo, Mexico. Image taken by Salvador Aguirre with his all-sky meteor camera. Credit: Salvador Aguirre.


So what caused the fireball? Most likely it was a small asteroid, no bigger than a basketball, hitting the upper atmosphere at 20-40 km per second. Based on the behavior of similar objects, it first became visible at an altitude of ~90 km and ceased to be visible at an altitude of ~20-30 km. Though some material may have survived to impact the ground as small meteorites, at least 90% or more of the asteroid burned up in flight.

A Better View of the Hayabusa Re-entry

The video below is from a Japanese NHK TV crew. IMHO it is better than the video NASA released. Enjoy!

Update on the Wisconsin Fireball (and meteorites)

A brilliant and well observed fireball was observed flying over the American Midwest Wednesday evening. The map below shows that sightings were made from Kansas in the south to Minnesota in the north and from Indiana in the east to South Dakota in the north. The yellow stars denote a sighting while the red stars denote reports of sonic booms (a tell tale sign that meteorites may have survived to hit the ground).

Map of fireball and sonic boom reports for the April 15 Wisconsin fireball. All reports were submitted to the Amercian Meteor Society and this blog. Yellow stars denote sightings and red stars denote sonic boom reports. Credit: Carl Hergenrother

Zooming in on the area where most of the sonic booms were heard brings us to southwestern Wisconsin. We now know that meteorites were found in this area. Not only did the sonic booms  and the large number of videos point meteorite hunters to this area but as many as 3 NWS Doppler radars picked up the meteorites as they were falling through the atmosphere. The blue square pinpoints were the radars place the most likely area of meteorite falls.

Zoomed in map of fireball and sonic boom reports for the April 15 Wisconsin fireball. All reports were submitted to the Amercian Meteor Society and this blog. Yellow stars denote sightings, red stars denote sonic boom reports and the blue square denotes most likely point of meteorite landings. Credit: Carl Hergenrother

All of these observations have allowed researchers to quickly find meteorites from this fireball. Meteorite related stories can be found here and here.

Finally a YouTube video of the fall…

Bright Fireball Over the Great Lakes Area

The net is hopping with reports of a brilliant fireball seen from Wisconsin to Missouri. All reports are consistent with a meteor that rivaled the Full Moon in brilliance. Reports of sonic booms also suggest  that shattered remains of the small asteroid (original size was probably no larger than a basketball, but that’s only a guess) may have survived to hit the ground as small meteorites (maybe fist sized, probably much smaller).

I’ll try to get more info and maybe even post a sighting/sonic boom map.

In the meantime, here are some comments posted to this blog.

From Jennifer in Spring Grove, IL:

I think I saw a meteor west of where I live in Spring Grove Il a bit after 10 pm today April 14th. It was very large and brite. It lit the whole sky as if a full moon just peeked out from a cloud. It looked very near to the ground before it fizzled out. So low I waited to hear an explosion.

From Amy near Wautoma, WS:

My husband and I were driving in Mt. Morris near Wautoma, Wisconsin. We were out away from the lights of the city and we both saw a large glowing green ball falling out of the sky! It was cool to my husband, but freaked me out. I was scared! I can never seen something like that before! There was no noise….it was just there, like a movie. I didn’t not see it all the way to the ground. It happened on Wednesday April 14, 2010 just before 10PM. Anyone else see this?

… and a few news stories (KCRG, KTVO, WBAY, WZZM, Discover Blog, WISN).

UPDATE: The Quad Cities IL/IA National Weather Service Office has a page devoted to the fireball. The site includes links to videos as well as a Doppler Radar image showing possible meteoric debris falling over Grant and Iowa counties.

April 3/4 to 10/11 Meteors

Every night is producing a steady drizzle of meteors. My zenith pointing camera (the northern one is no longer operational, something I’ll need to fix in the future) is detecting roughly 12-14 meteors per night. Only the night of April 5/6 produced subpar numbers which may have been due to lots of dust in the air (it was very windy that day).

The evening of April 7/8 saw a brilliant long-lived fireball. I plan to highlight this fireball in a future post.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT ZCG
TUS  2010-04-11   09h 29m   17  15  1   1
TUS  2010-04-10   09h 32m   14  10  2   2
TUS  2010-04-09   09h 02m   12  10  2   0
TUS  2010-04-08   09h 35m   13  11  2   0
TUS  2010-04-07   09h 38m   14  13  0   1
TUS  2010-04-06   09h 40m   3   3   0   0
TUS  2010-04-05   08h 57m   13  11  1   1
TUS  2010-04-04   09h 44m   10  7   2   1

TUS - Camera in Tucson operated by Carl Hergenrother
SDG - Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
TotTime - Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT - Total number of meteors detected
SPO - Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT - Antihelions
ZCG - Zeta Cygnids

Mar 17/18/19/20 Meteors

Activity has been fairly consistent from night to night with anywhere from 10-16 meteors per night. Though a single minor shower, the Gamma Normids, is active none have been seen. This isn’t too surprising since this shower only produces a meteor or 2 per hour for observers who can see down to 6th magnitude. My cameras are much less sensitive than the human eye and can only see down to ~2nd magnitude. Also the radiant of the Gamma Normids is located in the far southern sky so it takes a rare one to be seen this far north.

The highlight of the past 3 nights was a bright short lived fireball seen on the evening of March 17 at 10.:51 pm (March 18 @ 5:51 UT). This fireball lasted for a little over 1 second but traversed only a small part of the sky. The whole event was caught by SALSA2, my small FOV zenith-pointing camera as well as the all-sky cam at  the MMT on Mount Hopkins. For some reason my all-sky camera did not record the event. Makes me wonder how many other bright meteors are being missed.

The video below is from the SALSA2 camera.

The next image is a screen shot of the all-sky camera at the MMT. This image is a ~10-second exposure so unfortunately we can’t get any video.

March 18 fireball from all-sky cam on Mount Hopkins. Credit: MMTO/SAO/Univ. of Arizona.

We can learn a surprising amount of information about this fireball just from the above images. The shareware program Fireball writen by Albino Carbognani ( can be used to determine the trajectory through the atmosphere as well as an initial orbit.

Start Height = 71.7 km
End Height  = 67.7 km
Total Length of Travel = 15.7 km

Geocentric Velocity = 12.1 km/s

Semi-major axis = 0.82 AU
Eccentricity = 0.22
Inclination = 0.6°
Perihelion = 0.64 AU
Aphelion = 1.00 AU

The object  that caused the fireball was an Aten. This means it had crossed the Earth’s orbit and had a semi-major axis (its average distance from the Sun) less than 1.0 AU. The very slow geocentric velocity of ~12.1 km/s is almost as slow as a meteor can get (the slowest is 11.2 km/s, the fastest is ~72 km/s). The slow velocity is a result of impacting the Earth near the objects aphelion point. Note of warning, there is still much uncertainty in the positions and timing of this fireball. The orbit below is probably not exactly correct. Still, it is hard for this object to have been on an orbit other than an Aten with an aphelion near 1 AU. That much is certain. The perihelion distance, on the other hand, can be a few tenths of an AU larger or smaller.

Orbit of the Tucson fireball seen on March 18. Created with C2A and Fireball. Credit: Carl Hergenrother.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT GNO
TUS  2010-03-20   10h 16m   14  12  2   0
TUS  2010-03-19   09h 35m   16  14  2   0
TUS  2010-03-18   10h 19m   10  9   1   0

TUS - Camera in Tucson operated by Carl Hergenrother
SDG - Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
TotTime - Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT - Total number of meteors detected
SPO - Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT - Antihelions
GNO - Gamma Normids

Mar 13/14/15 Meteors

Talk about nights at different extremes. Two nights ago had to rank as one of the most boring nights of the past 2 years. Not only were a small number (6) of meteors seen by my deep camera, no meteors were seen by my wide-angle fireball camera. For a clear night you should see at least 3 or 4 bright ones.

Last night (Sunday, March 14) was better. What really set it apart was a bright fireball seen over Tucson at ~10:14 pm (5:14 UT). Both of my cameras picked it up. The first movie shows the very early stages of the fireball. Since the SALSA2 camera only has a FOV of about 50×70 degrees, this camera was lucky to see any of it. In the movie the fireball is moving nearly due north (north is to the bottom) and first becomes visible just to the north of Leo.

In the next view, we are looking at images from a camera with a much wider FOV. Here the fireball continues to brighten as it moves towards the North. It is still brightening as it moves out of the FOV (about 20-30 degrees elevation). The apparent skipping motion is due to my computer dropping frames. Guess I need a better system…

The near-all-sky cam on Mount Hopkins caught another view of the fireball. Hopkins is located to the south of my place so the fireball appeared further north.

MMT all-sky camera on Mount Hopkins. Credit: Tim Pickering/University of Arizona.

The fireball was also seen on all-sky cameras in Sierra Vista and on Mount Lemmon. Interestingly, a brilliant fireball was observed to the west of Sacramento, CA at almost exactly the same time. The jury is out as to whether the AZ and CA fireballs are one and the same since they could easily be unrelated. If anyone witnessed the fireball, especially observers to the north of Tucson, leave a comment and let us know. Let’s hope tonight brings another one.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT GNO
TUS  2010-03-15   10h 25m   13  10  3   0
TUS  2010-03-14   08h 47m   6   6   0   0

TUS - Camera in Tucson operated by Carl Hergenrother
SDG - Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
TotTime - Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT - Total number of meteors detected
SPO - Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT - Antihelions
GNO - Gamma Normids

Utah Fireball – November 18

A brilliant fireball was seen over Utah a few minutes past midnight last night. Video images give the time of the fireball as ~12:07 am MST (7:07 UT). At least 2 comments to this blog describe the event.

Miah wrote:

Did you guys see the one in Bountiful Utah a half an hour ago Nov. 18th 2009 12:12 A.M. It had to be at least 30 feet wide with a fire blazing tail that lasted for a couple of seconds stringing out at least a mile long and it lit up the dark night like it was a really bright sunny day. The kind of day you really need to wear sunglasses from horizon to horizon for at least 6 seconds it threw my heart up into my throat and I received an immediate and outrageous adrenalin rush. This experience was by far the coolest thing I have ever seen in the night sky. If anybody else saw this please post and I really hope someone or somebodys business buildings camera got this on tape and they post it soon. I really want to relive that moment again… All I can say is WOW…

and Melissa wrote:

i was at walmart shopping and when i came out to put my items away the whole sky lit up like it was morning for about 3 seconds and then i turned around and then things got dark again and i saw an orange tail in the sky looked like fire and then it was gone it was so weird and scary

KSL TV has a whole bunch of videos listed on their website. Especially check out Patrick Wiggins video where he gives a great and thorough explanation of what the fireball was. Some of the videos show the actual fireball in the sky while others show the ground being lit up as bright as day. Further news stories can be found at The Salt Lake Tribune and

Six or so hours later, as the sun was rising, a ghostly blue trail was observed over Utah. This trail appears similar to those seen after other bright fireballs. What is amazing is that trail had not dissipated after such a long time. Note, the crazy meandering pattern of the trail does not mean the fireball was moving erratically. The erratic pattern of the trail is due to varying wind speeds and directions in the upper atmosphere.

So far I have not seen any images or videos of the fireball. All the videos and images just show the ground or sky lighting up. As Miah wrote above, the fireball lit up the ground as bright as day.

Though it was probably below the horizon as seen from Tucson, the sky did brighten towards the north. My north facing meteor camera did detect a brightening of the northern sky. Though I recognized it as something unusual when I looked over the data this morning, I deleted the data since there was no obvious meteor in the field. Only later did I read about the Utah fireball. Luckily the MMT all-sky cam picked up the flash from Mount Hopkins, just south of Tucson. The flash was observed to the north at the exact time of the fireball so there is no doubt they are related. If the flash was seen as far south as Tucson, it is likely that it was also seen from a wide area including the states of UT, AZ, NM, CO, WY, ID, CA,NV, and OR.

Though the fireball occurred at a time when the Leonids were at their best, it is doubtful it is related to the Leonids. The Leonids are extremely fast meteors, in fact they are almost as fast as meteors can get (~70 km/s). As a result, Leonids rarely last more than a second and usually burn out in one very quick burst. The fact that this fireball lasted for some time (~5 seconds) means it was a much slower meteor that probably descended to a low altitude (~20-50 km). It is more likely it was caused by a small (0.5 to 2 meter) asteroid.

2 Fireballs over British Columbia – November 7

Northern California residents weren’t the only folks who witnessed a brilliant fireball last Friday night. Not one but two fireballs were seen over southern British Columbia. The first fireball occurred at 7:03 pm PST and is the topic of a story on CBC News. The 2nd fireball happened at 7:44 pm PST.

Dave Balam of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory near Victoria, British Columbia sent an image of the 2nd fireball taken with the Observatory’s all-sky camera. (Thanks, Dave!) The brilliance of the fireball is evident by the fact that the sky was completely cloudy at the time. Even with the clouds and rain drops, the fireball is easily visible as it moved across the sky.


Fireball seen over Dominion Astrophyiscal Observatory on Nov. 7 at 7:44 pm PST. Credit: Dave Balam/Dominion Astrophysical Observatory



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