February 25, 2004 Fireball

2004.02.25 FireballThis bright meteor was widely seen at 6:31 PM MST by residents of Colorado, Wyoming, and Kansas. Over 550 witness reports were received in the first 24 hours. The fireball was captured on six cameras of the DMNS allsky network, allowing excellent identification of its path.

This image shows the entire event as recorded by the Guffey School camera, approximately 55 miles south of the fireball. An animated version (155 KB) is available here, and an animated version (96 KB) of the event as captured at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (50 miles east of the fireball) is here. In both videos, the Moon and Venus are visible. From the viewpoint of the Museum camera, the fireball passes right next to Venus. A section of the trail is missing in the Guffey School video because the computer briefly stopped collecting data. The trail captured by the Museum camera ends before the actual fireball ended.

2004.02.25 Fireball Path
The fireball began about 4 miles east of Kenosha pass, between Jefferson and Bailey in Park County. It descended to the northwest and disintegrated between Breckenridge and the southern end of Dillon Reservoir. This is a popular winter recreation area, currently covered with deep snow. The ground path was about 18 miles, but the total length of the path through the air was about 35 miles. The meteor was traveling at 16 km/s, or 36,000 mph. This is a low speed meteor, which is common for early evening events. The descent angle was 57.4° (32.6° from the vertical). The meteor radiant was in Gemini.

Many people reported seeing the meteor begin much farther to the east. The green section of the path shown on the map above represents the portion of the trajectory between a height of 40 miles and a height of 10.5 miles. This was where the meteoroid was interacting strongly with the atmosphere, and was bright enough for the allsky cameras to record. In the twilight sky, this is about the same brightness as Venus. However, most meteors become visible to the eye when they are about 90 miles high. The projection of the known path back to this height is shown by the purple line on the map. Based on this, it is reasonable that observers could have seen the event begin quite close to the I25 corridor..

The brightness of this meteor, combined with its low speed, angle of descent, and numerous witness reports of a terminal breakup make it a likely producer of meteorites.

Distribution of 600 witness locations. Each small square represents one witness report. The orange circles are allsky cameras in the network. The fireball portion of the path is shown in green.

If you saw the fireball and have not made a report, please do so here. View the press release issued by the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Please check back for further information as it becomes available.

© Copyright 2004, Chris L Peterson. All rights reserved.