PDA

View Full Version : What did I just see?



amateur
2003-Jul-12, 06:54 AM
I am a very casual skywatcher --- I can only locate three constellations, but I have seen many shooting stars and a satellite. Tonight, though, at 1:15am Central Time, I saw something I've never seen before and am wondering if I can at least get suggestions as to what it might have been:

It was very similiar to a shooting star, but it was 20xs (that's a rough estimate) larger and brighter. It shot across the sky in a matter of one, maybe two seconds, much like a shooting star, but the size and brightness of it was larger than anything I've ever seen in the sky. It's a full moon tonight, or at least close to it, and I live in Houston, Texas just minutes from downtown. The light pollution is so bad tonight I can't even see stars, but it is clear, so there isn't a cloud in the sky. I'm not sure how else to describe it. I know the description is vague, but if anyone has at least any ideas of what it could have been, I would appreciate the input.

Thanks.

DStahl
2003-Jul-12, 06:58 AM
Did it leave a glowing trail which persisted for a second or so after it passed? Did it vary in brightness--get brighter as it went along, or dim and go out at some point--or was its brightness constant as long as you saw it?

I'm not saying I have an answer, but I have seen some very bright meteors in my time.

amateur
2003-Jul-12, 07:05 AM
It did leave a glowing trail that lasted about a second. It appeared to be getting brighter as it moved, then it disappeared behind buildings in the distance.

About a year and a half ago I was fortunate enough to see a long meteor shower here in Tx. I didn't see any meteors as big as I saw tonight, but I suppose it could have just been an unusually large one.

Thanks for the response.

DStahl
2003-Jul-12, 08:39 AM
If it was a meteor it must have been a beaut! I've seen a few that left glowing, quickly-fading trails, but I was watching from up in the mountains where the seeing is good. Here is a link (http://science.nasa.gov/newhome/headlines/ast17nov99_1.htm) to an article about a big meteor that cruised over the Midwest in 1999, and at this link (http://www.astronomy.com/Content/Dynamic/Articles/000/000/001/271ffahe.asp) is an article about the meteorite that broke up and scattered pieces over neighborhoods south of Chicago in March of this year. I hope I see one like that someday.

Mokele Mbembe
2003-Jul-16, 06:25 PM
It might have been an satellite passing over. I saw some of the Iridium ones on Saturday night (nice and bright too).

On second thought, you said it was extremely big, and left a trail? Hmmm...

cyswxman
2003-Jul-16, 09:53 PM
Hard to say with certainty. My first impression is that it was an Iridium flare. Being plagued with light pollution only the brightest ones would be easily seen in Houston. :-? They look like slow motion meteors and can get to -7 or -8 magnitude if you are located just right. I suggest going to Heavens-above.com, put in your location and see when others are predicted to pass over your area (they're not that rare, actually) and see if that looks like the same thing you saw. Hope that helps! :) :)

aurorae
2003-Jul-16, 11:13 PM
It was very similiar to a shooting star, but it was 20xs (that's a rough estimate) larger and brighter. It shot across the sky in a matter of one, maybe two seconds, much like a shooting star, but the size and brightness of it was larger than anything I've ever seen in the sky.

Bolide. The suggestion of an Iridium Flare is wrong, because you said it crossed the sky in a couple of seconds. Satellites don't move that fast. [-(

tracer
2003-Jul-18, 01:20 AM
During that great big meteor shower in 2001, I saw some pretty impressive chunks of glowing rock cross the sky. Several of the brighter ones left trails I'd have to describe as "smoky," and some crossed over half the width of the sky before burning out.

I'd say what amateur saw was a larger-than-usual meteor -- maybe even a gargantual one as big around as a pebble or so.

beskeptical
2003-Jul-18, 07:53 AM
A single meteor definitely fits the description. Most of the brief streaks you see during an average shower like the annual Persieds in August are made by very tiny bits of dust size particles. It doesn't take a very big piece of rock to make a fireball.

On the other hand, if no others reported seeing it, it is also possible you saw leftover 4th of July fireworks. Sometimes one's mind interprets what one sees in strange ways. So even if it didn't look like fireworks I wouldn't rule that out.

A good fireball will often leave a visible trail for many minutes. I've seen several good fireballs in my lifetime. The 1998 Leonids shower had fireballs all night long. Many had trails that lasted up to 20-30 minutes.

logicboy
2003-Jul-18, 12:34 PM
Last week a meteorite landed about 200 yards or so, just off of the freeway I was driving on. I thought about stopping and going to look for it but its not very smart to stop on a freeway especially at 4:30 am and I was also late for work. It was very bright because it was so close, I wish I could have taken a picture.

aurorae
2003-Jul-22, 10:08 PM
Last week a meteorite landed about 200 yards or so, just off of the freeway I was driving on. I thought about stopping and going to look for it but its not very smart to stop on a freeway especially at 4:30 am and I was also late for work. It was very bright because it was so close, I wish I could have taken a picture.

How do you know it landed?

One time I thought I saw a meteorite hit at night, but later I decided it had to have been some sort of firework.

8-[

Kaptain K
2003-Jul-22, 10:21 PM
Last week a meteorite landed about 200 yards or so, just off of the freeway I was driving on. I thought about stopping and going to look for it but its not very smart to stop on a freeway especially at 4:30 am and I was also late for work. It was very bright because it was so close, I wish I could have taken a picture.
By the time a meteor reaches the lower atmosphere, it is no longer glowing. The glow of a "shooting star" is actually the air in front of it that is shock heated and some of the surface that is ablated from the meteor. Many freshly fallen meteorites form a covering of frost, because the interior is still cold. If a meteor was large enough to be still moving fast enough to still be glowing when it hit the ground 200 yards from you, you would not be here to report it. There would be a new "scenic attraction" where you and a large chunk of the highway had been! :o