Fireball over California/Nevada: How big was it?

Apr 25, 2012 By DC Agle
A meteor in the sky above Reno, Nevada on April 22, 2012. Credit: Lisa Warren

(Phys.org) -- A bright ball of light traveling east to west was seen over the skies of central/northern California Sunday morning, April 22. The former space rock-turned-flaming-meteor entered Earth's atmosphere around 8 a.m. PDT. Reports of the fireball have come in from as far north as Sacramento, Calif. and as far east as North Las Vegas, Nev.

Bill Cooke of the Meteoroid Environments Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., estimates the object was about the size of a minivan, weighed in at around 154,300 pounds (70 metric tons) and at the time of disintegration released energy equivalent to a 5-kiloton explosion.

"Most meteors you see in the night's sky are the size of tiny stones or even grains of sand and their trail lasts all of a second or two," said Don Yeomans of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Fireballs you can see relatively easily in the daytime and are many times that size - anywhere from a baseball-sized object to something as big as a minivan."

Red bullseye indicates location where Sunday's meteor (or bolide) exploded over California's Central Valley. The yellow triangles mark infrasound arrays which were key in determining the location of the meteor's explosion. An infrasound array consists of detectors that allow the direction of the incoming wave to be determined by time delay of the arriving sound between the detectors. The two arrays depicted here are part of a worldwide network of infrasonic observatories. Image credit: WUC/Google Earth

Elizabeth Silber of the Meteor Group at the Western University of Canada, Ontario, estimates the location of its explosion in the above California's Central Valley.

Eyewitnesses of this join a relatively exclusive club. "An event of this size might happen about once a year," said Yeomans. "But most of them occur over the ocean or an uninhabited area, so getting to see one is something special."

NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them, and establishes their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet. JPL manages the Near-Earth Object Program Office for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Explore further: Launch pad where rocket exploded back next year

More information: More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects is at: www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch .

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User comments : 3

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Going
not rated yet Apr 25, 2012
At 70 metric tons surely some parts must have made it to earth.
Shootist
not rated yet Apr 25, 2012
At 70 metric tons surely some parts must have made it to earth.


Icy conglomerate, chondrite or nickle iron? It will make a difference, yes?

Very small (1-2m) meteor stays hypersonic - dashes consensus view of the effect on meteor during passage through atmosphere.

http://news.natio...eor.html

Obviously objects of this size impact the atmosphere much more often than the once per century quoted in the article.
hyongx
1 / 5 (1) Apr 25, 2012
"estimates the location of its explosion in the upper atmosphere above California's Central Valley"

Meteors do not explode they continue until impact! obviously this is alien ship that government secrecy is trying to hide from us. The illuminati is conspiring with aliens to sell humans into bondage for all time!!! REVOLT NOW!!!

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