Feb 15 Texas Daylight Fireball

A follow-on post with additional information about meteorites produced by this fireball can be found at: “Meteorites Found From Last Friday’s Texan Daylight Fireball“.

A rare daytime fireball was seen streaking through the sky over Texas around ~11:00 am CST on Sunday, February 15. The fireball was captured by a News 8 Austin news crew who were covering a marathon. The video can be seen here. A video with poorer quality can be found on Youtube.

Amy from Denton, TX sent in a report to this blog.

This morning around 11am while driving south into Denton, TX I saw a large flame moving very quickly across the sky at a downward slope. No smoke, no obvious chemical trail, and then it disappeared. I haven’t been able to find any reports on the news.

There has been lots of speculation about what caused this fireball. Early reports from the news media and some government agencies explained the fireball as a result of the recent collision between 2 satellites, Cosmos-2251 and Iridium-33. Though it is possible that the fireball was caused by a piece of a re-entering satellite or rocket it was not a product of the recent satellite collision. Those pieces will remain in orbit for many years, with some estimates saying a thousand years.

According to Spaceweather.com, Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office believes the fireball was created by a small asteroid about 1 meter in diameter moving at ~20 km/s.

Could the minor Delta Leonid meteor shower be the cause of the recent batch of fireballs? Roberto Haver submitted a report to the meteorobs mailing list of multiple fireballs detected by an all-sky camera over Italy. The 6-7 fireballs all appear to share a common radiant near the opposition or antihelion part of the sky (directly opposite the Sun). This is near the currently active Delta Leonid radiant which may have produced significant fireball activity during the Middle Ages (AD 1043-1073). One of the recent Italian fireballs was estimated to be a very bright magnitude -16 to -17. That’s much brighter than the Full Moon though still much fainter than the Sun. An image of this fireball can be seen here.

About Carl Hergenrother
I am a professional astronomer specializing in the study of comets, asteroids and meteors. This blog will focus on my professional and amateur work in this field

7 Responses to Feb 15 Texas Daylight Fireball

  1. anna loversuch says:

    my daughter saw the same fireball on saturday 14th feb at at about 9pm. she has a video of this on her phone which is why i looked it up as i was curious.

  2. dee says:

    I saw the “fireball” also, on Sunday, February 15, 2009 at around 11:00 CST. I was leaving WalMart in Euless, Texas, and I was at the corner of Harwood and Industrial. It really tripped me out, since it was daylight. I had been looking for other posts regarding this siting.

  3. Eman says:

    I want to confirm that several meteorites have now been recovered from this event in the vicinity of Denton, TX and the Central Texas Town of “West. TX”. Initial estimates are a strewn field a mile wide and 6-7 miles long. No major masses have been reported thus far. 20-40 stones so far, most are egg and thumbnail sized.

  4. flashy007 says:

    I live in Arlington Texas and I saw this on the news so I was curious to hear the final statement on what that object actually was and if someone had found some hard evidence of to what exactly that was. Later on at a different time somebody else came out with a video that captured something that day and it also came out on the news some cop got it on video. I wonder if there are other videos that maybe didn’t make it to the news from that same day. Well I would of wanted to see this if in fact was a meteor or comet. I just love discovering new things.

  5. Barbara says:

    Where is the footage or documentation of the impact site?

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Barbara,

      The impact site is spread over a very large area (perhaps a hundred square miles). When small asteroids (diameter of a few feet) enter the atmosphere they break up into many small (fist sized or smaller) pieces. These pieces slow down due to air resistance and hit the ground at speeds of only ~200 MPH (rather than the 10,000 MPH they were traveling in space). Though this is still fast (you wouldn’t want to be hit by one) it is not fast enough to blast a crater in the ground.

      So instead of one large piece blasting into the ground and causing a crater, most fireballs result in a large number of smaller pieces that land without creating any craters. The meteorites just look like rocks laying on the ground. Only after lab analysis can researchers and collectors be sure it is a meteorite.

      Larger asteroids will create craters but luckily they are very rare. That being said, a small asteroid landed in Peru last year which did create a crater. See more on this impact at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/03/080311-peru-meteor.html

      Hope that helps answer your question, if not shoot me a follow-up question,
      – Carl

  6. Suzan Ross says:

    I live in north of Detroit and saw a orange and rapid streak across the N-NW sky. It was between 3:20pm and 3:30pm on Thursday, April 23, 2009. It was very smilar as the clip on this page but didn’t last as long and was higher in the sky. I have not been able to find anything on the news or blogs. Let me know if you know anything about it.

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