Monday, Sept 9 at 8:18 PM Central Time, a baseball size fragment of a comet entered Earth’s atmosphere above Alabama, moving southwest at a speed of 76,000 miles per hour. At such speeds, fragile cometary material will not last long. Just 3 seconds after hitting the atmosphere, the meteor disintegrated 25 miles above the town of Woodstock, producing a flash of light rivaling the waxing crescent Moon. Because it penetrated so deep into Earth’s atmosphere, sonic booms were produced, which were heard by eyewitnesses.
A montage of the fireball as seen by 5 NASA cameras in the Southeast is attached, along with the meteor’s trajectory, which lies south of Birmingham. Also attached is a diagram showing the meteor’s orbit, which extends well beyond the orbit of Jupiter and is similar to those of comets. It was not a member of any known meteor shower.
A fireball is a meteor brighter than the planet Venus – the fireball seen Monday night was 15 times brighter than Venus.
The NASA cameras observing this event are located at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville; the James Smith Planetarium near Chickamauga, Georgia; the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville Georgia; and the North Georgia College Observatory near Dahlonega, Georgia.
Early Wednesday morning, at 3:27:20 AM Eastern Time, a piece of an asteroid, about 2 feet in diameter and weighing over 100 pounds, entered Earth’s atmosphere above the Georgia/Tennessee border, just south of Cleveland. The meteor was moving northeast at 56,000 miles per hour, and began to break apart north east of Ocoee, at an altitude of 33 miles. A second, fragmentation occurred less than half a second later, at an altitude of 29 miles. NASA cameras lost track of the fireball pieces at an altitude of 21 miles, by which time they had slowed to a speed of 19,400 mph. Sensors on the ground recorded sound waves (“sonic booms”) from this event, and there are indications on Doppler weather radar of a rain of small meteoritic particles falling to the ground east of Cleveland, Tennessee.
Recorded by all six NASA cameras in the Southeast, this fireball was one of the brightest observed by the network in 5 years of operations. From Chickamauga, Georgia, the meteor was 20 times brighter than the Full Moon; shadows were cast on the ground as far south as Cartersville.
The annual Perseid meteor shower peaked on Aug. 12 and 13, 2013, filling the sky with streaks of light caused by the meteoroids burning up in Earth’s atmosphere. Big meteor showers like the Perseids, are caused when Earth travels through a region of space filled with debris shed by a comet. The Perseids have been observed for at least 2,000 years and are the small fragments from comet Swift-Tuttle. These bits of ice and dust wander in space for centuries, finally burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere to create one of the best meteor showers of the year.
Compilation of Perseid meteors taken by the NASA All Sky Fireball Network cameras. Video credit: NASA/MSFC/MEO
This Perseid fireball meteor was observed in the skies over Chickamauga, Ga., on Aug. 11, 2013, at 2:14:49 a.m. EDT. It was also recorded by four other cameras in the NASA All Sky Fireball Network. Image Credit: NASA/MSFC/MEO
Here is a video of a bright Perseid seen by our all-sky camera located at PARI (NC) in the early morning hours of July 30. Several Perseids have already been detected and they are not set to peak for over a week! The nights of August 11-12 and 12-13 will be the best time to observe, but check out fireballs.ndc.nasa.gov regularly to see how many have already been detected by our all-sky cameras!