Bright Fireball Flames in Southern Skies

Editor’s Note: A rare snowstorm isn’t the only interesting thing that happened across the South this past week. On the night of Tuesday, Jan. 11, an extremely bright fireball meteor streaked over Jackson, Miss., and was visible across several southern states. NASA astronomer Bill Cooke of the Meteoroid Environment Office at Marshall Space Flight Center confirms the meteor below.

Okay folks, can confirm that this was indeed a fireball or bolide. Unfortunately no video of the actual meteor has surfaced, so I requested an analysis of signals from North American infrasound stations. We had one very clear detection, from the ELFO station in Canada, and a marginal signal at another station east of the visual sightings. Unfortunately the marginal signal is too weak to permit extraction of much information or to triangulate.

The ELFO signal arrived at 10:05:50 PM Central time, some 1 hour and 20 minutes after the event, and came in at an azimuth of 210 degrees. If you look at the attached plot, the black curved line shows the path of the ELFO signal, which intersects nicely with the bulk of the visual observations — indicated by the red dot  — around Jackson, Mississippi (ELFO az gives 32 deg N, 89 deg W — Jackson is at 32 deg N, 90 deg W).

The infrasound signal at ELFO lasted some 2.5 minutes, and the amplitude permits an estimate of the meteor’s energy at 40-80 tons of TNT. If we assume a speed of 15 kilometers per second, we can derive a mass of 171 kg or 376 pounds. Making a further assumption that the meteor was porous rock gives a size, or diameter, of 0.54 meters or 21 inches.

That’s the best estimate at this time — if video data of the meteor itself shows up, please let me know. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you need clarification or more information.

8 thoughts on “Bright Fireball Flames in Southern Skies”

  1. Bill,

    I have video of a fireball that my all-sky camera spotted earlier that night – at 6:25 Central time. It must not be the same event, but it was a pretty impressive flash. I saw it while driving and then checked my camera when I got home.

    I wonder if a TV station – – confused the event this post is about with the one that I saw.

  2. I am from Danube, Minnesota. Last night my wife and I were returning home from the Sacred Heart – Renville , Minnesota area, back to Danube when we saw a very bright flash in the northern sky. We were in the 44 47 19.71 N 95 17 00.30 W area of Minnesota ( by Google Map )traveling eastbound on highway 212 and we witnessed the flash in the sky. It was at 6:28 p.m. central time. I thought it may have been a flash from a electrical power line that runs east – west on the north side of the highway , but it was way too high in the sky for it being a power line problem. just thought I would share this information with you. So you know we saw it too.

    Rick Ferguson
    Danube, Minnesota

  3. We saw the bright flash in the sky last night. we are from Minnesota and we were traveling east on hwy 212 by Renville Minnesota. According to Google map we were at : 444719.71N 951700.30W .We saw the light in the north to slightly northeast direction. Very, very bright flash for a second or two. White to silver colored light. It was at 6:28 p.m. central time.

  4. I live in Fayetteville, Ga…What was that multicolored object in the North Eastern sky around 73:30 PM on Thursday 1/13/2011?

  5. Hello! I was just using google to see if anything was written about…exactly that…a bright fireball flying through the sky! I am in MN, and I was driving on Highway 52 near Cannon Falls at about 6:30pm or so on Wednesday 1/12/2011. I saw an amazing, intense streak of fire pass through the sky, and then sort of explode. The first thing that came to mind was the Challenger episode, and then I wondered if it could have been a plane. I even turned on the radio to try and hear something. Please let me know if you have heard similar comments from MN, and what it might have been. Thanks!

    OH, I just read the posts below, and they saw it too!

  6. Tonight’s Valentine Rendezvous 2/14 at 11:37PM EST. Putting serious business aside for a moment of humor.
    Hey, in Freudian language the spacecraft will be a driving force towards a hot comet…..maybe the black hole in space will reveal a newborn galaxy from the outburst
    Whew! what a long way for cupid’s arrow to fly …hope the comet’s in it finest sparkle

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