[Latest Update: 2009 Feb 17 5:00pm MST]
Reports have been coming in about a large bright fireball centered over Kentucky. Additional sightings have been made in Ohio, West Virginia and Tennessee. Interestingly, a sighting of a fireball was made in Ontario, Canada at nearly the same time. This sighting is probably too far away to be the same object and was probably of a different but still spectacular fireball.
Please submit any additional sightings to this blog. If you want to submit an official report send it to the Fireball Report Page of the American Meteor Society at http://www.amsmeteors.org/fireball/report.html
The fireball was seen some time between 9:50 and 10:15 pm on the evening of Feb 13. It has been described as being blue, green, orange and white. It is easily possible that the fireball changed color as it flew through the upper atmosphere. Many people in Kentucky reported a sonic boom that shook homes. The sound was created by the small asteroid or satellite that created the fireball as it traveled through the atmosphere. At that time the fireball was probably located 20-50 miles up.
Some sources are stating that this fireball was likely caused by debris from 2 satellites that collided a few days ago. This includes an official statement from the Federal Aviation Administration via the Jackson, Kentucky office of the National Weather Service. This is unlikely. Though the satellite collision did create hundreds of pieces, these pieces are still located in orbit 450-480 miles (750-800 kilometers) up. It will take many years (some estimates say thousands of years) for these pieces to decay (fall) into the atmosphere.
Regular readers of this blog will notice that bright fireballs happen quite often. An exploding satellite is not needed to explain the number of recent fireball sightings. Unfortunately, every meteor and fireball seen for the next few weeks will probably be blamed as part of the Cosmos-2251 and Iridium-33 collision.
A great report of the fireball was sent in by Jim Storm, an amateur astronomer and ex-President of the Astronomical Association of Southern Illinois:
I witnessed a fireball over Ky on Friday, Feb. 12th, at approximately 9 pm, CST. My wife and I were driving into Owensboro, KY, heading east, when the meteor fell. It literally appeared to drop out of the sky from about 45 degrees, and appeared to burn out at about 15 degrees. It was falling fairly straight, and pretty quick. The whole event lasted around 2 seconds. I did note persistent training. Owensboro is about 200 miles west of London, but due to the time, it was probably the same meteor. I have seen incoming satellite debris, and this fireball was moving much faster, more like a typical meteor. It was a bright, blue-green, and, even though we observed it through a windshield and the light pollution of a fairly large city, I would estimate it’s magnitude at least -6 or -7.
Some other comments submitted to this blog about Friday night’s fireball display.
From R. Farmer in Lenoir City, KY:
I live in Lenoir City Tennessee. My mother in law called me and said that she saw an orange ball falling from the sky. She said it looked like a ball of fire. What do you think? fireball? meteor? We are located in east Tennessee. It happened on 2-13-09 at about 10:15pm.
From C. Zierden in Loveland, Ohio:
I live in Loveland ,Ohio and saw the biggest blue, green object fall last night approx. 10:00pm 2-13-09 . The color was different from any falling star I had ever seen. It was larger than any I had seen before. my family all think I’m seeing things, I was so sure of what I had seen I was wanting to run across to the next street to see if anyone else had seen it. We are located southwest Ohio, outside of Cincinnati.
From Joel in Peebles, Ohio:
Feb 13 about 10 pm or so I saw a fireball in the southeastern sky over Peebles, Ohio. Saw it for about 3 seconds and it was bright orange and super close and fast then it disappeared for a second the reappeared and was lime green colored with a long tail till it disappeared.
From Nikki and Angie in Ashland, KY:
We were in Ashland, KY Feb 13, about 10:00 pm we were headed west, in the sky we saw a “fireball” that was green and glowing moving very fast across the sky. It looked like a shooting star, however, it was very large with a long glowing tail. It was brighter & lasted longer than any shooting star that I have ever seen. It almost looked like an aircraft crashing, but it faded while still high in the sky. It was very similar to what Joel describes.
From Lisa in Huntington, WV:
My husband and I both saw this “fireball” We saw it around 10 as well and we are not far from you in Huntington, WV. This was not a planet as far as I can tell from what I have been reading. I wonder if it was part of one of the satellites that had collided and was burning through our atmosphere. Any ideas from anyone else. It was beautiful, colorful and HUGE.