[meteorite-list] Brilliant Utah fireball – October 2, 2014, revisited
From: Linton Rohr <lintonius_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu, 1 Oct 2015 19:30:10 -0600
A year ago tonight, my wife and I witnessed a dazzling fireball here in
Torrey. I posted a report here, and noted that a few in the SLC area had
seen it heading this way. I've expanded on it a bit for a stargazing column
I've been writing for our little local paper. I'll post it below, just for
fun. I'd love to hear more from others who saw it.
Insider Stargazing Tips
Brilliant Utah fireball ? October 2, 2014, revisited
I?ve spent a lot of hours outside, on a lot of nights, over many years,
looking at the sky at all hours of the night. Over those years I?ve seen
hundreds, if not thousands of meteors. Some were bright and some were dim,
but they?re always a joy to see. After I began collecting meteorites and
learning more about them, the meteor sightings became even more enjoyable.
There?s something fascinating about holding a piece of space in your hand.
But as I read stories about fireball sightings, or sometimes watched online
videos, I always felt a little envious. I needed to see one myself.
Finally, on October 2 of last year, my time came. It was truly amazing!
I shared it with friends at the time, but I wasn?t yet writing this column.
So though my words cannot do it justice, I?ll attempt to recount the
experience now - on its anniversary - so that you might envision the
I had gotten up at 4:00 and was lying there, about to fall back to
sleep, when my wife Karen started shouting ?LOOK!? When I opened my eyes,
the entire sky out our ample, northeast-facing windows was dazzling white!
The pinon and juniper trees were lit up like it was noon. A moment later, a
large, white, slow-moving fireball came into view at the top of our windows.
I estimated it to be at least half the diameter of the moon and it had a
long trail behind it. Karen described the tail as having an ?electric
blue-green tint?. It may have just looked white to me because my pupils hadn?t
adjusted yet. Then it morphed into an orange fireball, with undulating
flames trailing out perhaps 3 degrees (six full moon widths) behind it! A
few small chunks fell from it, but for the most part, it remained intact
until it cooled into dark flight, which means the atmospheric friction had
slowed it down enough that it no longer glowed. The whole show lasted about
5 or 10 magical seconds, which will remain burned into my memory forever.
I usually compare bright meteors to Venus, but this one was more like
the sun! It was traveling from N/NW to E/SE and descending at about a 5 to
10 degree angle. It appeared to be right over the northern end of Capitol
Reef N.P., but was probably much further away... possibly over toward Moab
or even western Colorado. In fact, when I filed my report, I saw that a few
people way over in central Colorado had seen it, too. A couple early morning
astronomers in Salt Lake City reported seeing it heading our way. And I did
hear from a couple other local residents who also witnessed the spectacle,
but would love to know if anyone in Hanksville did. Or Bluff, Blanding, and
One thing that really amazes me is this: the farther away it actually
was, the more massive it must have been to appear so large from here! Most
?shooting stars? we see are only the size of a grain of sand, or perhaps a
pea, and they burn up long before they could ever reach the ground. Not this
It took quite a while for us to calm down enough to get back to sleep.
Early in the morning, I wrote up the story and posted it to meteorite and
astronomy forums. I hoped that some of my meteorite hunting friends would
spring into action and start tracking it down. But another fireball in
northern Arizona ? visible in mid-day ? was reported that afternoon, and all
the attention turned to it. So somewhere out there, in the southeast corner
of Utah by my reckoning, lies one or more rocks from space, still waiting to
Received on Thu 01 Oct 2015 09:30:10 PM PDT