There was a very bright fireball over middle Tennessee last night, October 20, at 7:57:09 PM CDT. Four NASA all sky cameras, located in Tullahoma, Huntsville, Chickamauga, and North Georgia College, first detected the fireball at an altitude of 54 miles, moving slightly north of west at 47,000 miles per hour. The meteor, estimated to weigh around 10 pounds, travelled some 64 miles through the atmosphere before fragmenting 24 miles above the town of Brentwood, south of Nashville. At its brightest, the fireball rivaled the first quarter Moon, gathering a fair amount of attention in the tri-state area.
The fireball was NOT associated with the Orionid meteor shower, which is currently active. It was moving too slow and coming from the wrong direction.
On Tuesday, Sept. 23, a second fireball occurred about 40 minutes after the fireball in Tennessee. The Michigan fireball is close to the edge of the camera because the meteor was at extreme range, over 200 miles away, for the camera.
The Michigan fireball was produced by a piece of a comet over 2 feet across, probably weighing around 40 pounds. It hit Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 54,000 mph.
At 8:26:38 pm CDT on Tuesday, Sept. 23, a 2 inch piece of an asteroid entered the atmosphere above the town of Lutts in southern Tennessee. Moving almost due west at a speed of 46,300 miles per hour, it traveled some 52 miles before burning up 25 miles above the Tennessee farmland. At its peak, the fireball was about twice as bright as the planet Venus, and was seen by many in north Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
At approximately midnight local time on the night of September 6 (September 7, 6 UTC), a loud explosion was heard in an area near Managua, Nicaragua. A crater some 39 feet in diameter was found near 86.2 degrees west longitude, 12.2 degrees north latitude, in good agreement with the reports of explosive sounds. It has been suggested that a meteorite may have caused this crater; however, the lack of fireball reports from the surrounding populated area seems to suggest some other cause. The skies were partially clear, and an object capable of producing a crater this large would have also generated a very bright fireball (brighter than the Full Moon) that should have been seen over a wide area. Some have drawn analogies to the September 2007 Carancas meteorite fall in Peru; however, there were fireball reports associated with this event, even though it occurred in the daytime near noon.
While a meteoritic origin for this crater cannot be ruled out with absolute certainty, the information available at this time suggests that some other cause is responsible for its creation.
We have completed our analyses and here’s what we know:
At 10:19 PM Central Daylight Time on August 2 (Saturday night), NASA meteor cameras detected a very bright fireball at an altitude of 57 miles above Hoodoo Road just east of the town of Beechgrove, TN. The meteoroid, which was about 15 inches in diameter and weighed close to 100 lbs, travelled just over 100 miles to the south south east at 47,000 miles per hour, breaking apart in a brilliant flash of light above the Alabama town of Henagar. The cameras continued to track a large fragment until it disappeared 18 miles above Gaylesville, located near Lake Weiss close to the Georgia state line. At last sight, the fragment was still traveling at 11,000 miles per hour. Based on the meteor’s speed, final altitude, and weak doppler radar signatures, it is believed that this fireball produced small meteorites on the ground somewhere between Borden Springs, AL and Lake Weiss.
The meteoroid’s orbit has its farthest point between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and is inclined to that of the Earth (which explains its southerly direction).
The NASA Meteoroid Environment Office would like to hear from those in the area around Alabama’s Lake Weiss who may have heard sonic booms or like sounds around 10:20 PM Saturday night. Please contact Dr. Bill Cooke at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have reports of such.
Last night at 8:38:30 PM CDT, a basketball size meteoroid entered the atmosphere 63 miles above Columbia, South Carolina. Moving northwest at 78,000 miles per hour, it burned up 52 miles above the Tennessee country side, just north of Chattanooga. This fireball was not part of any meteor shower and belongs to a class of meteors called Earthgrazers. These meteors skim along the upper part of the atmosphere before burning up. This one travelled a distance of 290 miles, which is quite rare for a meteor.
A bright first appeared 51 miles above the town of Dumas in northern Mississippi and proceeded slightly west of north at 40,000 mph, burning up between the Tennessee towns of Saulsbury and Middleton at an altitude of 23 miles. The time of the event was 12:46:36 AM CDT.
It was about as a bright as a crescent Moon, which translates into an object of about 6 inches in diameter. The orbit indicates that this meteor got as close to the Sun as the planet Venus and as nearly as far out as Mars before kamikazing into our atmosphere.
A bright fireball was detected at extreme range (hundreds of kilometers) by two NASA meteor cameras located at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) in North Carolina, and at Hiram College in Ohio. At such distances (286 miles in the case of the PARI camera), trajectory determination is quite difficult.
The fireball was first detected on February 27 at 7:07:58 PM EST at an altitude of 50 miles above the town of Montibello, Virginia, moving SW towards Roanoke with a speed of around 33,500 mph. Our cameras lost track around an altitude of 43 miles as the fireball disappeared below the horizon, though it undoubtedly penetrated lower. Magnitude was approximately -8.5, which is brighter than the crescent Moon. Taking into account the speed, we are dealing with an object roughly 1 foot in diameter and weighing approximately 50 lbs.
On Sunday evening, a bright fireball was reported by visual observers in Tennessee. Occurring about 7:22 PM Central, the meteor was detected by 4 of our All Sky cameras – those in Huntsville; Chickamauga, GA; Cartersville, GA; and Dahlonega, GA. The fireball was picked up at an altitude of 55 miles moving east of south at 52,000 miles per hour; it burned up at an altitude of 27 miles just south of Anniston, AL. This was not a Taurid, as the orbit indicates it is a fragment from a Jupiter family comet, which have an aphelion (furthest distance from the Sun) out near Jupiter. This particular piece of interplanetary debris was between 2-3 inches in diameter and weighed about 5 ounces.
The fireball over southern California last night at 7:49 PM PST was a North Taurid. Brighter than the Full Moon, it was caused by a piece of Comet Encke about 2 feet in diameter hitting the atmosphere at 56,000 mph. Information about the fireball was provided by NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office (MEO) and is the NASA organization responsible for meteoroid environments pertaining to spacecraft engineering and operations. The MEO leads NASA technical work on the meteoroid environment and coordinates the existing meteoroid expertise at NASA centers.