The sky in northern Michigan lit up by a spectacular meteor

September 3, 2009 10:17 by scibuff

Last night, fans at the Beach Bums game in Traverse City in Michigan reported seeing a bright meteor in the night sky.

“We were watching the game and then all of a sudden something caught our eyes.”
“We looked up really quick and there was this big, bright fireball… it seemed like it was right on top of us like you almost had to duck it seemed so low.”

There are also reports of a loud explosion, thus the object must have reached low enough altitudes where the air thickens enough that sound can propagate through it.

We thought someone set off dynamite – the boom shook the house.

This sighting adds to the series of bright meteors seen around the world recently. The number of similar reports in the last year should really be attributed to the rise of social media rather than increasing number of meteor activity. About 3,000 meteors are set ablaze in our atmosphere every day.

The space around us is filled with interplanetary debris. As of August 30, 2009, 6292 Near-Earth Objects (NEO) have been discovered. 1062 of these NEOs are asteroids with a diameter of approximately 1 kilometer or larger. Also, 145 of these NEOs have been classified as Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs).

Only yesterday, at 11:46:36 UTC the asteroid labeled as 2009 QC35, discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey on August 29, passed the Earth at a distance of about 0.0075 AU which roughly represents 2.9 Lunar Distances (LD). The separation of 1,113,500 km is considered quite close by space standards.

Orbit Diagram of 2009 QC35 - Source: NASA JPL

Orbit Diagram of 2009 QC35 - Source: NASA JPL

2009 QC35 has an estimated diameter of 23-52m. It is not one of the largest among Apollo asteroids (Earth-crossing NEOs with semi-major axis greater than 1.0 AU and perihelion distance less than 1.017 AU), nevertheless a collision with our planet would cause a great damage and leave a long lasting scar.

The Barringer Meteor Crater in Arizona created approximately 49,000 years ago by a nickel-iron meteorite with the diameter of about 50 meters

The Barringer Meteor Crater in Arizona created approximately 49,000 years ago by a nickel-iron meteorite with the diameter of about 50 meters

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