A very public fireball

Bridges, J.C.; Schwanethal, J.P.; Paton, M.D.; Pearson, V.K.; Greenwood, R.C.; Watson, J.S. and Morgan, G.H. (2004). A very public fireball. Astronomy & Geophysics, 45(6) 6.25-6.26.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1468-4004.2003.45625.x


An appeal for witnesses to a fireball on 24 September produced an excellent response from the public; 55 eyewitnesses sent accounts. From their observations we calculated the radiant azimuth as 320degrees, and altitude,angle less than or equal to 20degrees. Without video or CCTV footage for control on the fireball's velocity or pre-entry orbit, we used software developed for dust impact experiments, to assess the most likely orbital trajectory. The highest probability solutions have a semimajor axis between 1.6 and 2.0 AU and an eccentricity of 0.4 to 0.5, corresponding to a typical near-Earth asteroid orbit. Of possible comet showers, the kappa Aquarids are within the calculated constraints. No fragments were found, despite considerable public interest, consistent with the absence of reports of a dust trail. Public response to this fireball demonstrates the great interest in meteoritic phenomena, particularly when, as in this case, participation in the scientific enquiry is actively encouraged.

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