September 6, 2002 Fireball

This bright, slow moving meteor was widely seen by residents Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nebraska at 8:32 PM. Its probable path has been determined based on about 400 witness reports. It appears to have become visible just north or northeast of Yellowstone National Park, and ceased to be luminous over southeast Nebraska, near the Kansas border. It was traveling nearly parallel to the ground, and either burned up at the end of its path, or possibly exited the atmosphere and returned to space. I had a few reports from much further east, in Ohio and Michigan. It is just possible that fragments of the meteoroid continued that far; this remains under investigation. If this event dropped any meteorites, the most likely area would be near the Nebraska-Kansas border southwest of Lincoln.

Evidence is still being collected and analyzed. This event was captured on video, and a complex acoustic signal was recorded by at least one infrasound monitoring station. The acoustic signal was strongest as the meteor was crossing northwest Nebraska. This may support the possibility that the meteor skipped out of the atmosphere, since it would have reached its lowest altitude (and maximum interaction with the atmosphere) over this area.

Tracing the path of the meteor back to its origin places the radiant in Leo. This does not correspond to any known debris trail (the debris of Comet Temple-Tuttle is encountered in Leo in November, but this is far too early for a Leonid fireball.)

The map shows the approximate ground path of the fireball. Each small black square represents a single witness report. People south of the path saw the fireball to the north, those to the north were looking south. Most people saw the meteor traveling from west to east, but those very close to the path were able to detect the actual northwest to southeast direction. If you saw this fireball and have not made a report, please do so here. I am particularly interested in hearing from people who were close to the indicated path, particularly at the beginning and end points.

September 6, 2002 Fireball


© Copyright 2002, Chris L Peterson. All rights reserved.