Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Fireball, If Ever So Briefly

Last night, at 9:48 PM, I was exiting the van in the driveway when something caught my attention up in the north-northeastern sky. I turned just in time to catch a fireball. It was easily brighter than Venus. Duration was maybe three seconds, tops.
The problem was that the beautiful live oaks that make this part of Jacksonville so alluring were in the way. Still, this object was so bright it showed through the tree canopy. 
It also led to my first fireball report to the American Meteor Society
I've seen literally hundreds of meteors, dozens of fireballs and a handful of explosive bolides. I have never taken the time to report the more significant events. Even when I worked as an astronomy educator, this little matter went to the wayside. For me, those astronomical objects of true desire for me, the planets, open and globular clusters, stellar associations and such, were far more important than these errant pieces of Solar System jetsam and flotsam. In light of the interest in the possible recurrence of the legendary Gamma Delphinids, however, I decided to, for once, be a responsible observer and report the fireball. 
From my vantage point, this is the path the object took.

As it turns out, I wasn't alone. There were two other possible sightings from two very different locales; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Lakeland, Florida. Taken together, with information gleaned from the pending reports at the AMS site, we get the following. 

The green lines represent line of initial sighting, the red the last. Angles are approximated. The yellow path is a potential trajectory that the object may have taken. Unfortunately, to verify that trajectory, exact times for all the sightings would be needed.
Nonetheless, it was a bit thrilling to catch such a wondrous event, albeit briefly. 
You never know when you have just observed a greater event, and when you contribute that information, you are doing, you guessed it, science.
Next time, better notes.

The AMS has compiled a total of five reports, of which mine was one. Here is the final analysis -
Event 1267

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