Fireball Feedback

Duke Johnson

Wow! What a fireball. It’s the buzz that surrounds this event that has everyone clambering for more information. As we try to answer people’s questions, we’ve gathered some of the most reliable data available at this point. We know that the meteor’s path (in the area of Salt Lake City) had it moving roughly from the north to the south west. Its trail and explosion lit up the sky for a total of about five seconds. It was visible from Idaho to southern Arizona. As of this positing, size estimates range from small microwave to refrigerator.

If you saw it, please take a moment and post your comments below to help us present a clearer picture if the event so that we may continue to share it with others. What direction was it traveling from where you were? How long was the light trail it left behind? How long was the flash of light? What other information do you have that might help us learn more about it?

Thanks in advance for the posts. Its great events that help everyone remember to look up.

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20 thoughts on “Fireball Feedback

  1. I saw this just after midnight while traveling west on I-70 in Rifle, CO. From my view it was in the northwest and appeared very bright with a glowing tail. As it went behind the mountain range a couple miles away it seemed to hit, explode and then the sky lit up for about 5 seconds or so. An awesome sight. From my point of view it seemed as though it was only a few miles away.

  2. At about 12:04-12:05 a.m. I was looking out my window to the south when a very bright light completely illuminated Mt. Loafer (south of Elk Ridge, UT) and the neighborhood around me. It seemed that as this initial flash began to decay a second brighter pulse more completely illuminated the area. As this second pulse began to decay a third extremely bright pulse illuminated my neighborhood and all of Mt. Loafer with light that seemed brighter, purer, and more intense than that of noon-day sun. I estimated the total time from first pulse to decay of the third pulse was roughly 3 seconds. Given the intensity of the final impulse, my initial reaction was that it seemed comparable to the light generated by a thermonuclear detonation. I did not see the source of the light but surmised it was associated with the Leonids.

    A few seconds after 12:15 a.m. (sorry, no second hand on my clock) a series of rumbles were heard that became progressively louder until the final rumble, which was sufficiently loud to cause mild rattling in the house. These lasted roughly five seconds.

    It was one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen.

  3. My mom lives with us and she had finally gone to bed about 20 min before and I’d just come in the office downstairs. I turned around back into the now dark family room for some reason I can’t even remember and saw this huge flash through one of the windows….

    I closed the office door because the light was on and ran up to the front room to look out the window because I was thinking something with a car, although nothing like in the 3 yrs I’ve lived here has ever flashed like that…but saw nothing, so forgot about it…

    Then, today I got all kinds of tweets about a meteor something or other and assumed they were about the shower from the night before…which I sadly missed!

    That is, until one of them said something about a flash at about midnight last night and it clicked…I SAW IT, TOO! WOW! It was weird and awesome all at the same time!

  4. Like Rebecca, I also saw the flash of light from indoors and had no clue as to what was going on until I heard the news today. I was on the computer in my kitchen shortly after midnight and there was a very long, bright, flash of light. I remember thinking, “that’s kind of weird” and figured it must’ve been a freak bolt of lightning (with no thunder) that was extremely bright. I would have loved to have seen the meteor itself from outside!!

  5. Shortly after midnight I happened to see what appeared to be a lightning flash light up the area behind our house in West Valley and our rear adjoining neighbor’s house.The flash was different in that it was a blue hue, then bright white and ended with a red aura. I thought that it was strange that no thunder followed and then even remembered seeing no clouds in the sky when I drove home about 10 p.m.
    At the the precise moment the red appeared my neighbors’ house power went out and so did two other neighbor’s to the south of them. I then feared their house had exploded so went outside to look closer and determined nothing amiss. I finaly rationalized it was probably a transformer somewhere that had blown. Knowing my son was on his way home I waited to ask if he’d noticed the neighborhood darker than usual. He said no that he came in the north way not the south way. I asked if he saw any power trucks or such and he asked “why?” So I begn describing what I had seen. He got excited and said not trucks but he and the fellows he was traveling with think they had seen a meteor flash thru the sky. He was about 3900 So. 700 East in Salt Lake. He said it came as a blue dot from out of the north sky (like by the airport area) traveled directly in front of them giving off a white glow that made him shield his eyes to see as he drove a couple of seconds. As it passed they saw a red “tail” and then it seemed to illuminate as if it had hit something and exploded in the southern area of the Salt Lake Valley.

  6. I had gone to bed at approximately 11:50 p.m. on Tuesday, November 17, 2009, and was having difficulty falling asleep. I had the blinds open on my bedroom window, which faces to the West, in the Salt Lake Valley, and was gazing out the window looking toward the night sky. At about 12:07 a.m. the night sky turned blue-green in color then an amazing red and a sudden flash of white light. It was one of the most spectacular sights I have ever witnessed. I was apprehensive about getting out of bed to see what was going on. I honestly thought a spaceship had landed and little green men were coming to get me or that there would be an explosion shortly after the flash of white light and I would go ‘KABOOM’! I was afraid to disclose to anyone what I had witnessed for fear they would think I was delusional. It wasn’t until Wednesday morning, to my relief, that I learned I had seen a meteor. WOW!!! What a sight!

  7. So I saw this meteor while driving to CA from CO. So excited to see it make the news. I am shocked however because I was headed south on the 15 towards Vegas. The car in front of me slammed on his breaks because it was coming straight down in front of us. Not angled. It looked like a burning ball of “green” gas and then it turned to the orange/flame fireball. I seriously thought I was witnessing “the end”. It looked huge to me like a vw bug. Glad we are all still here……………Wanted to share, very exciting.

  8. I promise I am not a lunatic…..So I was headed N. towards Vegas headed back to Colorado. That makes a little more sense. Anyhow, one of the scariest, coolest things i have ever seen.

  9. Keep the info coming!

    Here’s what we know right now (morning of the 19th), based on the eyewitness accounts and security cam videos we’ve been able to review:

    The fireball appeared to the northwest of SLC at a few seconds past 12:07 AM on 11/18. The total duration was just over three seconds. The fireball was traveling in a generally “from the northwest, to the southwest” line as seen from the Wasatch Front region.

    The meteor appeared to be between 20 and 30 degrees above the western horizon, which puts its probable “straight overhead” location about 50-150 miles to the west of the Wasatch Front. This is a very preliminary estimate. The fireball was also seen still traveling south from locations in southern Utah, which makes me skeptical of claims that it might have landed near Dugway.

    What we need, desperately, is information from folks about >where< their security cams are located and precisely which direction they are aimed. We especially need footage from cams that show shadows moving across the ground. We’ll be able to use this information to create a series of motion paths that can be triangulated into an accurate ground track for the fireball.

    So please – if you know people who have security cam footage of the fireball, get them to share it with us, and don’t forget to ask for precise locations (street addresses are fine) and the exact direction their camera faces.

    We’ve got some sleuthing to do!

  10. I was traveling South (and slightly west) on Hwy 14 between Powell and Cody WY. At 12:07am 11/18/09, directly in front of me, over my steering wheel, the fireball appeared. It lasted for about 3 seconds. First, a yellow streak in appearance then green. It went behind Carter mountain and appeared to either hit the ground or explode and lit up the sky. There were several flashes (three main ones) and lasted for a couple of seconds.

    The Walmart in Cody WY has cameras in their parking lot may have footage of the fireball.

  11. UPDATE:

    The video from the Frisco Peak Observatory operated by the University of Utah was a view to the NORTH. That’s 180 degrees from where I’d first thought it was!

    I stand corrected!

    For the Frisco Peak camera to be showing a south-to-north motion, while in Salt Lake City and points nearby there were reports of a north-to-south motion, that means that the meteor itself must have been coming it at quite a steep angle from somewhere more-or-less midway between the Wasatch Front and Milford.

    This also makes sense of the three second duration of the event. Shallow angles generally mean longer periods of visibility. Three seconds is pretty quick for a fireball of this brightness.

    We’ll be out and about in the Salt Lake Valley for a little while tomorrow taking measurements to understand what security cameras were seeing and try to get a better fix.

    When we know anything interesting we’ll share it here.

    Pretty cool stuff!

  12. I saw one of the metorites and believe it was much closer than the accounts I have read about. I would be willing to bet I was within 200 yards from one that came in on a pretty sharp angle. Sharper than any of the pictures I have seen so far. I would also say it was about 200 feet off the groud before it went out. It lasted for 6 – 8 seconds. The reason I think it was so close was because of how quickly I passed it. I would think if it were further away, I would have almost remained fixed in my window. Also I could dictinctly see the detail and motion of the flame trail.

    This was near the weave in Farmington.

    I would certainly like to talk to someone about it and see if it is possible to find it.

  13. Adam,

    Super-bright meteors are amazing and memorable things to see. One of the most common things that happen when people watch a fireball is that they underestimate the distance and elevation of the meteor.

    For example, there was a daytime fireball visible in 2001 that was widely reported to us as having landed in the foothills above Bountiful, when in fact the meteor was reported from Idaho Falls to Lake Powell, and probably came down somewhere near the Utah-Colorado border.

    The point I’m making is that our brains are easily tricked.

    Most meteors (“shooting stars”) are created by bits of rock in space that are generally smaller than a grain of rice entering our atmosphere and vaporizing in a flash of light from the extreme heat generated by the encounter. These events typically occur 30-40 miles above the ground.

    The fireball seen at 12:07 AM on November 18th was probably bigger than a kitchen stove. The intense light it created as it vaporized was reported from as far east as Rifle, Colorado, as far north as Malad, Idaho, as far west as Reno, Nevada, and as far south as Prescott, Arizona.

    Check out a recent news story by KSL-TV, an in it you’ll see some amazing video from a dashboard camera mounted on a police car in Grand Junction, Colorado. Here’s the link:

    For this fireball to be seen from a police cruiser in Colorado, more than 200 miles to the east of Salt Lake City, and Frisco Peak near Milford, and cast the shadows that were recorded by security video cameras along the Wasatch Front, it had to be at least 30 miles above the ground.

    We triangulated using multiple location reports and back-tracing shadow information obtained from security camera videos. From this we are fairly confident that the meteor entered Earth’s atmosphere 80 – 120 miles to the west of Salt Lake City, probably in the vicinity of the Deep Creek Mountains.

    I hope this helps.

    Keep your eyes on the skies & all the best,


  14. Seth,
    Is there a map available showing the estimated ground track of the Nov 18
    fireball? I’ve been looking at radio observations from USU’s Bear Lake
    Observatory and there are some oblique signal readings that would be
    consistent with a meteor trail possibly in the 90-100 km altitude range
    in northwest Utah (Utah side of where Nevada and Idaho come together) at
    the time of the fireball. These are rather sloppy measurements, but it
    sounds like they might be consistent with the fireball path. Any information
    would be appreciated.
    Providence, UT

  15. Thanks for checking in.

    We haven’t heard any updates of people finding any pieces of the meteorite on the ground. If we do hear of something, we’ll be sure to let people know.

  16. Did anyone else see the Meteorite Men “Dugway” show? They got permission to hunt on the Proving Grounds with military chaperones. The searched two parts of the base and on the southern perimeter. No meteorites were found. There has to be pieces out there somewhere! ;)

  17. Haven’t seen the episode yet, but we did have the opportunity to work with the Meteorite Men team as they were trying to locate pieces of that meteor. Time to search for the episode online and check it out!

  18. I’m only just getting into astronomy after watching Proff’ Brian Cox UK TV series (wonders of the universe). I didn’t see the above but I have seen the video – Awesome!

    I’ve also just downloaded the ‘Star Walk’ app on my iphone, (if you haven’t seen it give it go – it’s excellent).

    Any tips for a budding enthusiast are greatly appreciated.


  19. I’ve also been following Wonders of The Universe and getting into astronomy because of that. The idea of collecting piece of meteorite and holding a piece of rock that comes from outer space is just mind boggling.

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