Southern Arizona Fireball – June 23
June 23, 2009 37 Comments
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.
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.