Southern Arizona Fireball – June 23

Earlier this evening, I was outside in my driveway trying to find Comet Garradd with my 10×50 binoculars. Suddenly I was distracted by a flickering light out of the corner of my eye. At first I thought it was the neighbor’s light. In fact, it was probably the most beautiful fireball I’ve ever seen (or at least have seen in 10+ years).

From my home in central Tucson, the fireball was located to the southeast and traveled further to the east and slightly downward. It was a brilliant blue-green and was trailed by dozens of smaller fragments. Though the head, or front, of each fragment was blue-green, the end of the trails were more purplish or reddish (I’m not completely sure). The whole event lasted for greater than ~2 seconds (it could easily have been longer since I didn’t notice it right away).

I estimated that the fireball was a little fainter than the Full Moon (maybe magnitude -11). It was obvious that it was bright enough to cast shadows. One report I received (from Rick) mentioned a rumble heard a minute or so after the event. This is most likely due to a series of sonic booms created as small pieces of the original asteroid slow down and start to travel sub-sonically. The fact that the sound took a minute or more to reach Rick gives you an idea of how far away the explosion was (over 10 miles).

Unfortunately my meteor cameras don’t cover the whole sky, and due to some trees, don’t point to the south so nothing was seen. Plus (embarrassingly) I hadn’t turned them on yet. I do know of an all-sky camera that might have been up and running. If so, I’ll try to post the video.

I wasn’t the only one who saw it and reports have come in from Phoenix and Tucson. The following comments have already been posted to this blog.

From Anna: “I saw something fall form the sky tonight that looked almost the size of a grapefruit, on fire and falling. It had a blue light with yellow behind it. t looked so big that it seemed like it landed only a few miles away. I have been watching the news, but nothing. It just scared me a little! I am in Phoenix.”

From Loretta: “I saw a giant meteor june 23 about 915 or 920. It was in the southern sky and went from west to east.”

From Teryn: “I saw that too south of Tucson. It lit the ground up like the sun.”

From Ed: “We were on our back patio in Green Valley and watched as it flashed across the sky. At first we thought it was a firework, as we had not seen one that appeared this close ever.”

From Rick: “Also, there was a low rumble about 1 minute or so after seeing the flash, in south Tucson… impact or shockwaves? The “rumble” was heard coming from the east, right on the reported trajectory.”

From CJS: “Was driving south in Queen Creek and saw it off to the southwest. Looked so close and was such a vivid green with gold sparks behind it, also wondered if it was a firework. But it moved like a meteor, so decided to check the internet after getting home to confirm what it was. What a wonderful sight. Had never seen one that close or that colorful before.”

From Julie: “I was sitting in my yard talking to a friend on the phone. My whole yard lit up like a spot light was on it. I turned around and looked up and saw the bright trail of green blue and kinda silver. .very vivid zoom through the sky. It moved like a shooting star. I was thrilled by it. It lasted about 10 seconds and then just went out.”

From Shannon: “I was driving south on La Canada when I saw it come in from the southern sky, diagonally down towards the mountains. It . . . was . . . incredible! I lost my breath. In fact, I’m embarrassed to say, I was on my cell phone at the time and stopped talking mid-sentence. I lost my breath and had to pull over. I started crying it was so beautiful! It was huge and you could definitely see tons of fragments breaking off the back, blue and yellow flames, and a red glow around the head rock. It seemed to be right above tree line when it extinguished/burned up, but from the size in the sky it looked for sure like it was going to hit somewhere. I saw the entire thing. The event seemed to last for like 5 seconds, but I know it just seemed that long because I was caught up in the moment. It was closer to earth than fireworks and much more beautiful. I feel extremely lucky to have seen it :)

From Frank: “I was sitting outside in Patagonia, AZ, USA facing south under a covered patio. I do not know exact time somewhere between 9 &10 pm. A bright greenish bkue flash lit the sky enough to cause shadows. I figures it might have been a fireball but unfortunately did not witness it directly. Several minutes later a loud sonic boom hit. Searching internet confirms that it was a fireball. WOW! I am envious of those who saw it directly.”

From RacerX: “I was driving east on River near Swan and saw the entire sky light up this bright blue color. I asked my son if he saw something and he told me that a bright blue fireball was coming down from the southwest. I looked over just in time to see the sparkling remnants of the debris. It was my sons first meteor sighting, special indeed.”

From Amanda: “I was standing joking around with some friends and then the ground got brighter and we looked up and saw it, it was so beautiful. I thought it was a firework for a second but hell no lol!!!! We heard it hit about 3 minutes later, it was loud. I feel really lucky to have witnessed that. :)

From Ben: “I was driving home from phoenix heading south on I-10 a few miles from Picacho Peak at approximately 9:30pm when the night sky turned slowly from an olive green to a brightness as the meteor slashed across and down breaking up in a brilliant white sparkling fireball! My wife saw more of it as she was sitting back in the passenger side. I thought it may have been a trick of my eyes the the sky glowed green until I read the comments this morning. Incredible. I considered it to possibly have prices landing either in tucson or maybe Mexico as I am unsure of how close it actually was. A spectacular show, may be a once in a lifetime to have seen this. We heard no ‘booms’ as we were driving. Breathtaking and exciting!”

From Nancy: “I was driving when I saw it and did a doubletake — thought it was a helicopter with a searchlight at first, and then looked again and it was sparking and moving so quickly, and clearly was not an aircraft. I was headed due south at the time, and it seemed to come in from the southwest, heading east, but still definitely south of my position in Gilbert (Phoenix’s east valley).

It was an absolutely incredible thing to see! I have always lived near metro areas — meaning a lot of smog — so have not witnessed anything too amazing in the night sky before. Have watched some predicted meteor showers (Perseids), but in comparison, this was 100 times bigger and brighter. If you were outside and oriented even remotely in the right direction, you couldn’t have missed it.

Fantastic!”

From Michael: “We were playing a softball game last night in Mesa, Arizona. Just as I released a pitch, we saw this huge fireball in the southern sky. It was the largest I have ever seen. It distracted our players big time and the batter ended up with an “in-the park” home run. Oh well…. also, we didn’t hear any sound but lots of noise in the park. Very cool.”

From Amadon: “A group of 12 of us were gathered around a bonfire at Avalon Organic Gardens Farm and Ranch (Tumacacori, AZ) last night laying and looking at the stars. We all saw the meteor as described above and all heard the loud boom/rumble a minute or so afterward. Very exciting, easily the biggest meteor I have ever seen. Truly awesome! We all jumped up and ran around and got excited, just when we were chillin back down, we heard the BOOM! We thought that it either hit the earth, or struck the atmosphere and created some type of sonic boom. Another 6 different people on our ranch saw it as well!”

If you saw it as well, please comment to this post. Also if it isn’t too much trouble, please submit a formal report to the American Meteor Society’s fireball page at http://www.amsmeteors.org/fireball/report.html. I already submitted mine.

I’ll try to add more info tomorrow.

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

37 Responses to Southern Arizona Fireball – June 23

  1. ed hunt says:

    We were on our back patio in Green Valley and watched as it flashed across the sky. At first we thought it was a firework, as we had not seen one that appeared this close ever.

  2. Chuck George says:

    Hi Carl! Chuck George from KOLD here. Many of our viewers saw it! We had twitter followers giving account, as well as emails and phone calls. You are linked up to our blog, so you’ll likely hear from some of them. Thanks for the detailed report! -11!!! I wish I had been outside!!!

  3. CJS says:

    Was driving south in Queen Creek and saw it off to the southwest. Looked so close and was such a vivid green with gold sparks behind it, also wondered if it was a firework. But it moved like a meteor, so decided to check the internet after getting home to confirm what it was. What a wonderful sight. Had never seen one that close or that colorful before.

  4. Julie Summers-Bujak says:

    Julie Summers – Bujak

    I was sitting in my yard talking to a friend on the phone. My whole yard lit up like a spot light was on it. I turned around and looked up and saw the bright trail of green blue and kinda silver. .very vivid zoom through the sky. It moved like a shooting star. I was thrilled by it. It lasted about 10 seconds and then just went out.

  5. Shannon Kerstetter says:

    I was driving south on La Canada when I saw it come in from the southern sky, diagonally down towards the mountains. It . . . was . . . incredible! I lost my breath. In fact, I’m embarrassed to say, I was on my cell phone at the time and stopped talking mid-sentence. I lost my breath and had to pull over. I started crying it was so beautiful! It was huge and you could definitely see tons of fragments breaking off the back, blue and yellow flames, and a red glow around the head rock. It seemed to be right above tree line when it extinguished/burned up, but from the size in the sky it looked for sure like it was going to hit somewhere. I saw the entire thing. The event seemed to last for like 5 seconds, but I know it just seemed that long because I was caught up in the moment. It was closer to earth than fireworks and much more beautiful. I feel extremely lucky to have seen it🙂

  6. Frank Kee says:

    I was sitting outside in Patagonia, AZ, USA facing south under a covered patio. I do not know exact time somewhere between 9 &10 pm. A bright greenish bkue flash lit the sky enough to cause shadows. I figures it might have been a fireball but unfortunately did not witness it directly. Several minutes later a loud sonic boom hit. Searching internet confirms that it was a fireball. WOW! I am envious of those who saw it directly.

  7. EvilJ says:

    it was definately aliens !!
    if you all wake up with ur booty sore you’ll know for sure then lol

  8. RacerX says:

    I was driving east on River near Swan and saw the entire sky light up this bright blue color. I asked my son if he saw something and he told me that a bright blue fireball was coming down from the southwest. I looked over just in time to see the sparkling remnants of the debris. It was my sons first meteor sighting, special indeed.

  9. I was standing joking around with some friends and then the ground got brighter and we looked up and saw it, it was so beautiful. I thought it was a firework for a second but hell no lol!!!! We heard it hit about 3 minutes later, it was loud. I feel really lucky to have witnessed that.🙂

  10. Ben bradford says:

    I was driving home from phoenix heading south on I-10 a few miles from Picacho Peak at approximately 9:30pm when the night sky turned slowly from an olive green to a brightness as the meteor slashed across and down breaking up in a brilliant white sparkling fireball! My wife saw more of it as she was sitting back in the passenger side. I thought it may have been a trick of my eyes the the sky glowed green until I read the comments this morning. Incredible. I considered it to possibly have prices landing either in tucson or maybe Mexico as I am unsure of how close it actually was. A spectacular show, may be a once in a lifetime to have seen this. We heard no ‘booms’ as we were driving. Breathtaking and exciting!
    Ben Bradford
    Tucon, AZ.

  11. Nancy says:

    I was driving when I saw it and did a doubletake — thought it was a helicopter with a searchlight at first, and then looked again and it was sparking and moving so quickly, and clearly was not an aircraft. I was headed due south at the time, and it seemed to come in from the southwest, heading east, but still definitely south of my position in Gilbert (Phoenix’s east valley).

    It was an absolutely incredible thing to see! I have always lived near metro areas — meaning a lot of smog — so have not witnessed anything too amazing in the night sky before. Have watched some predicted meteor showers (Perseids), but in comparison, this was 100 times bigger and brighter. If you were outside and oriented even remotely in the right direction, you couldn’t have missed it.

    Fantastic!

  12. Amadon says:

    A group of 12 of us were gathered around a bonfire at Avalon Organic Gardens Farm and Ranch (Tumacacori, AZ) last night laying and looking at the stars. We all saw the meteor as described above and all heard the loud boom/rumble a minute or so afterward. Very exciting, easily the biggest meteor I have ever seen. Truly awesome! We all jumped up and ran around and got excited, just when we were chillin back down, we heard the BOOM! We thought that it either hit the earth, or struck the atmosphere and created some type of sonic boom. Another 6 different people on our ranch saw it as well!

    • Gini Hoffmeyer says:

      I didn’t get to see the event, dang it all, but I did hear a loud BOOM and my windows shook quite abit. I live in Hereford, AZ which is about 12 miles south of Sierra Vista. I found out what it was when I was watching Ch 13s newscast. Congratulations on all that got to see it. Anybody get any pictures of it?

  13. Gini Hoffmeyer says:

    HI, I live in Hereford, Az and am sorry to say I missed the great show BUT I did hear a loud BOOM and my windows shook quite abit. Had no idea what it was til I saw Ch 13s news. Hereford is about 12 miles south of Sierra Vista.

  14. Stephanie says:

    i was standing out side last night and thought it was maybe heat lighting and thought it wouldnt be sooo bright like that soo i came out from under the patio and my god THERE IT WAS flyin threw the sky right above my head ( i live in sierra vista AZ) and then about a min later i heard a loud BOOM when i heard that i got scared cuz at that time i wasnt even sure what it was i have NEVER seen anything soo beautiful in my life.. DOES ANYONE OUT THERE HAVE A VIDEO OF IT?? id love to see it again!!! 🙂 thanks

  15. Chuck george says:

    A viewer submitted a security cam image. http://Www.Kold.com/weatherblog

  16. Homer says:

    I was shoveling rock on my driveway in Whetstone AZ. There is no public lighting where I live. Suddenly the whole the black night turned into the bright of day. Thinking that it could be the moon or lightning coming out of the clouds I stared into the sky and saw the biggest fireball I have ever seen in my life fly directly over me. About a minute later I heard the thurndering noise coming from the north. I was expecting to see a mushroom cloud and Gabriel blowing his horn soon after but nothing happened. Whetstone is about 13 miles north of Sierra Vista.

  17. sightseer says:

    Please make sure to post a meteor report at http://www.amsmeteors.org These stories are excellent, but the meteor reports have more hard numbers in them that will help in tracking this thing down. Thanks!

  18. kevin says:

    Me and my friend were camped on the east side of Mt. Wrightson, already in bed. We both saw the light with our eyes closed. I thought it was a helicopter with a spotlight on us, but it was totally silent… creepy. Then i realized it was moving really fast, and was a meteor. We watched it a few seconds until it split into fragments and faded out just as it was about to disappear behind the mountainside. It was in the east when we spotted it, heading northward and looked like it faded out over toward benson. between a minute and 2 minutes later we heard the ba-boom! which rolled out at the end like thunder. Within a few minutes i looked at my watch and it was 9:30.

  19. Larry Pajkowski says:

    I saw it sitting on my front porch in mid town Tucson. Largest, most beautiful brightest meteor I have ever seen, moving super fast from west to east. Was very impressed with the blue-green color, bright like a roman candle.

    • mike dodd says:

      Larry,
      I know this has to be you! Lots of catching up to do. You don’t know it yet but you helped design the Xenobot Fighter spacecraft featured in the Starman Book Series. In addition to being a full time therapist, I work part time for NASA these days and have met quite a few of our childhood heroes ( Dick Gordon, Fred Haise, Sen. Harrison Schmitt, etc.). I’m glad you got to see the fireball and I miss AZ….I was out in the Mojave desert in ’01 ( visiting Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites) and I got to fly an experimental LongEZe over Edwards AFB…the moment was not lost on me.

    • mike dodd says:

      Larry,
      you can reach me at doddzep@aol.com

  20. ricky chewning says:

    i’m so glad i found this blog. i’ve been searching for info online and on the news for hours. i just drove in from Fort Worth, TX to visit some friends in Tubac, AZ. thankfully, we were all hanging out on the patio last night. what a beautiful site, i feel so lucky!

  21. Matt says:

    I was driving on AZ83 at 9:25 and it flew right over my car, I had a front row seat!!! it was amazing, I was hoping to find someone with pictures so I could show my wife. It brokw up in the air not far from me. Most amazing thing i have had happen to me driving on a highway!!

  22. Mike says:

    Ha – I was outside looking towards the ground when I saw my shadow from this. Something lit up above me, I looked up expecting a police helicopter and saw several orange fireballs go across the sky.

  23. Nancy says:

    Finally found an article:

    Meteor lights up the sky
    Loud boom heard, bright streak seen across the region late Tuesday
    The Sierra Vista Herald

    http://www.svherald.com/articles/2009/06/25/news/doc4a430805ea916104103851.txt

  24. liz says:

    I was in Rio Rico Az on june 23 and also say a huge fireball going south to north, it lit up the whole house as if it were a lightning struke

  25. joe mehl says:

    i was overlooking downtown tempe from across the lake on washington st. i was just stepping outside and noticed a bright fireball moving extremely fast across the sky. at first i thought it was a plane coming down and i thought it was going to crash into A mountain in downtown tempe but then it just seemed to disappear.

    awesome awesome awesome!

  26. Loti Gest says:

    I was driving south on Country Club between Grant and Pima when I looked up because I saw a bright light that lit up the parking lot on the left- I thought it was the police helicopter, it was so bright. I looked up and saw a spectacular clump of bright silver lights going across the sky and trailing off. It was huge and I felt like it was right near me to the east a bit. At first, I thought it was fireworks because that’s what it looked like, but realized it was going across the sky and not up. Then I thought it was an explosion of something. I even thought maybe I didn’t see anything and my eyes were playing tricks on me- until a teenager I work with told me she saw it also.I figured the two of us could be our own club.

  27. Laurie says:

    I was walking my dogs in Corona de Tucson heading north when the ground around me lit up almost as bright as day. I turned around (to face south) to see what was lighting up the ground and saw the fireball and watched it burn out. I just wish I had been walking south initially to have seen the entire thing. What I was was awesome none the less.

  28. john de roo says:

    i saw the fireball while walking on the UA campus in Tucson. i initially mistook it for auto headlights in my peripheral vision, but looked up to see the biggest meteor i’ve ever observed. i agree it was about the size of a full moon.

    i estimate THE BLOB will arrive in Tucson sometime next week….

  29. Roy (Scotland) says:

    We saw the fireball as we sat on the patio at Tubac Golf Resort. At first we didn’t realise what it was, but when a sonic boom occurred a few minutes later we knew we had witnessed something a bit special. We’re now home in Scotland and it’s nice to see that so many people have posted comments on their experience.

  30. Shandra says:

    So, the last two nights ive seen this glowing orange fireball looking thing in the sky. It travels so fast and looks SO close then it sits in the sky and disappears, its moving west to east, and its around 10:15 everynight… Im located in NW missouri…

  31. Pingback: Meteorite Blog » Tucson Fireball: A Meteorite Has Been Found

  32. Kelley Roberts says:

    I saw another one this past Thursday morning 07/09/09 at just a little after 1 am in the Eastern sky. I was driving home when I saw the brightest shooting star I had ever seen. My brother and I both saw it. It was traveling diagonally down from the south to the north. Then I realized it was close enough I could see details in the fireball and flames off the backend. I was driving so I didn’t get a good steady look at it but it was a bluish color around the mass of the fireball and then it faded into a greenish and then yellow. I’ve seen lots of shooting stars but this was definately the most amazing close up of one I’ve ever seen.

  33. Joe Hassenger says:

    New Fireball on November 11th, 2009, around 6:25pm
    Didn’t see it clearly because it was behind some clouds, but it was so bright it was visible thru the clouds.. Bright green and pretty big.

    Anyone else see it?

  34. mike webb says:

    Howdy did anybody observe the meteor/shooting star in the southern sky at 7:28PM 5/8/10 ? It traveled due south at low horizon for 1 second thks for any replies

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