October 7, 2002 Fireball

This bright meteor was seen by residents of Colorado, Utah, Nebraska, and New Mexico at 7:18 PM. Its probable path has been determined based on about 300 witness reports. The meteor became visible near the Four Corners area, and descended fairly steeply, breaking up near Albuquerque. This fireball was captured on a camera located at Sandia National Labs in New Mexico. The camera data was also used to reconstruct the path of the meteor.

Tracing the path of the fireball back to its origin probably places the radiant in Canes Venatici or Ursa Major. It is just possible the radiant is in Draco, which is significant because the date of this event places it during the annual Draconid meteor shower. The Draconids are noted for producing occasional large fireballs, but this normally occurs only when the Earth passes through fresh debris of Comet Giacobini-Zinner at perihelion, when it is closest to the Sun. This occurred in 1998, and will again in 2005. The fact that the comet is currently so far from the Sun means that we are only crossing a thin trail of debris, and argues against this being a Draconid fireball.

Numerous witnesses within 50 miles of the breakup point heard loud sonic booms. This meteor may have produced material on the ground, although it is too early to narrow the area down enough to justify a search.

If you saw this fireball and have not made a report, please do so here.

There was another fireball reported about ten minutes after this one. Although much less bright than the event over New Mexico, it still generated many reports from Colorado residents. That fireball may become the subject of another investigation.

This event is still under investigation. Check back for further information as it becomes available.

October 7, 2002 Fireball


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