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Exploding Colorado Fireball, 100 Times Brighter than the Moon (Video)

28 am MST. No larger image available (Chris Peterson)

Cloudbait Observatory all-sky camera image of the bright explosion on Dec. 6th at 1:28 am MST. No larger image available (Chris Peterson)

Last night, the Colorado skies played host to a dazzling fireball event. The meteor blasted through the atmosphere, detonated and outshone the Moon by 100 times. It is therefore expected that there were many eyewitnesses, and the Cloudbait Observatory (5 km north of the town of Guffey, CO) is appealing to people to report their accounts of the fireball. Fortunately, the observatory managed to capture an all-sky camera video of the early morning explosion.

The Colorado fireball comes shortly after a similar event over Canada on November 20th, where over two dozen meteorite fragments have been recovered from agricultural land. We wait in anticipation to see if this huge Colorado fireball produced any similar fragments, but eyewitness accounts will be critical to aid such a search…

In the early hours of this morning, a large explosion dominated the Colorado skies. It was yet another large meteor ploughing through the atmosphere, ending its journey in an energetic detonation. Fortunately this event didn’t suffer from the same affliction the Sudan 2008 TC3 meteoroid impact back on October 7th (i.e. lack of observers), and put on a show much like last month’s Saskatchewan fireball (and the October Ontario meteor). All in all, North America is having a great meteor season with no lack of observers, eye witnesses and all-sky cameras.

Discussing last night’s Colorado fireball, astronomer Chris Peterson describes the event: “In seven years of operation, this is the brightest fireball I’ve ever recorded. I estimate the terminal explosion at magnitude -18, more than 100 times brighter than a full Moon.”

Video of the Colorado fireball (Chris Peterson)

Video of the Colorado fireball (Chris Peterson)

Peterson was using video recorded by Cloudbait Observatory’s all-sky camera, dedicated to meteor spotting, when the surprise magnitude -18 burst lit up the skies.

Although the all-sky camera caught the fireball in the act, more information is needed about its location and altitude. There is every possibility that this fireball produced fragments that landed on the surface (much like last month’s Canadian fireball). For meteorite hunters to find these pieces, eye-witnesses need to contact the Cloudbait Observatory to file their reports.

Additional details of the event (from Cloudbait):
* Camera name: Cloudbait (map)
* Camera description: Cloudbait Observatory
* Camera coordinates: N38.786111 W105.483611
* Camera altitude: 2768 meters
* Total events for this site: 15906
* Event time: 2008-12-06 01:06:28 MST
* Image coordinates: (0.407,0.251) – (0.516,0.179)
* Azimuth: 79.8 – 117.9
* Altitude: ???
* Approximate duration: 1.0 seconds (28 video frames)
* Fireball: Yes

Source: Space Weather


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Hello! My name is Ian O'Neill and I've been writing for the Universe Today since December 2007. I am a solar physics doctor, but my space interests are wide-ranging. Since becoming a science writer I have been drawn to the more extreme astrophysics concepts (like black hole dynamics), high energy physics (getting excited about the LHC!) and general space colonization efforts. I am also heavily involved with the Mars Homestead project (run by the Mars Foundation), an international organization to advance our settlement concepts on Mars. I also run my own space physics blog: Astroengine.com, be sure to check it out!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Bill Davis December 8, 2008, 3:11 PM

    That’s quite bright. One wonders what the power output across the EM spectrum integrates to, and what the explosion process is. Nuclear aside, explosions are either a very fast burning, or the result of an initial shock wave that propagates through a solid or liquid energetic material. I think meteorites don’t burn, and they are probably not made of explosives. I can understand a breakup under turbulent stress, but what is the source of the large visible flash? The assumption is the conversion of kinetic energy to heat, which would account for an infrared signature. I wonder if anyone has done detailed simulations of this process using realistic material models and heating inputs.

  • Jarod December 11, 2008, 2:10 AM

    Good question Bill. Maybe presure change has something to do with its explosivness.