September 2, 2014 Fireball (Decay)

2014.09.02 FireballThis bright fireball occurred at 10:34 PM MDT over New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. From any location along the path the apparent duration was about 30 seconds. The slow speed immediately suggested a decay of space junk, and reviewing the catalog of orbital elements suggested that this could be Cosmos 2495 (NORAD 39732), a Russian spy satellite. Subsequent analysis suggests that this was only one component of the satellite, not the main body.

Data has been recovered from the following cameras:

  • Cloudbait (MDT 22:32:13 - 22:32:41)
  • DMNS (MDT 22:32:27 - 22:32:49)

The image at left is from the Denver Museum camera; mouse over it to see the image from the Cloudbait camera.

View video for these events here.

The body was varying in brightness as it burned up, and that resulted in each camera recording it as a series of individual events rather than one continuous one. The gaps in the path in the composite images here reflect a combination of actual decreases in intensity as well as short periods where the images were being recorded to disk.

2013.09.02 Fireball PathThis map shows details of the decay path. The beginning an end points as shown only reflect the positions determined from the two Colorado cameras. The actual path began in New Mexico and ended in Wyoming (or possible even South Dakota according to some witness reports.

Tom Ashcraft recorded the decay from his camera near Santa Fe, NM, as did a pair of NASA cameras in southern NM.

The ground speed as the debris was closest to the Cloudbait camera was 7.3 km/s, at a height of 63 km. This is consistent with a reentry from low Earth orbit.

The gray zone just west of the upper end of the path is Dopper radar scatter recorded by the Denver NOAA radar (KFTG) at 23:20:24, created by material from the decay falling into the radar field some 45 minutes after the satellite passed over.


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

Please check back for further information as it becomes available.


© Copyright 2014, Chris L Peterson. All rights reserved.