May 21, 2004 Fireball

2004.05.21 Fireball VideoThis extremely bright meteor was recorded on a number of allsky cameras at 2:44 AM, including one operated in Albuquerque by Sandia National Labs and by at least five of the DMNS allsky network cameras. No witness reports have been received yet, but because of the early hour the fireball occurred I do not expect it to have been widely seen.

This image shows the entire event as recorded by the Guffey School camera, approximately 126 miles east of the fireball.

The fireball exploded almost directly over Montrose, Colorado, and appears to have been brighter than another one over the same area in 2002. A brightness estimate from the cameras suggests an apparent magnitude at Montrose of about -13.4, two to three times brighter than the full Moon.

2004.05.21 Fireball Path
The fireball began about 25 miles southeast of Montrose at a height of 75 miles, and descended steeply towards the town (47° from the vertical), exploding at a height of 48 miles directly over the southeast corner. This event was captured by the allsky camera at Montrose High School (the orange dot labeled "MHS" is seen very close to the end of the meteor path). From the view of this camera (video, 87K ), the meteor is seen to start high in the sky and rise nearly overhead before exploding, with the final material disappearing behind the camera.

This fireball exploded unusually high. Normally, meteoroids are much closer to the ground before the stress of deceleration in the denser atmosphere causes them to break up. The high altitude suggests that the parent body was particularly fragile, possibly cometary debris or a carbonaceous chondrite. This reduces the possibility that material survived to reach the ground. Nevertheless, after a close examination of the decay following the terminal explosion, I think there remains a good possibility that meteorites were formed. Although the path makes it appear that debris would fall over Montrose, the altitude of the breakup combined with high altitude winds that evening make it likely any strewn field produced would actually lie about 12 miles to the northeast, between Montrose and Crawford.

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

Please check back for further information as it becomes available.

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