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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Cameras Record Large Thanksgiving Fireball
Preliminary Investigation Shows Meteor
May Have Broken Up over Western Colorado
DENVER-December 5, 2002-A brilliant fireball lit up the night
sky Thanksgiving evening, giving people in Colorado and surrounding states
an unexpected holiday light show. Now researchers at the Denver Museum
of Nature & Science say the stony and metal meteoroid may have originally
weighed up to a ton as it entered Earth's atmosphere based on comparisons
with similar events.
The November 28 event was the fifth bright meteor seen in Colorado in
the past three months. It was seen by hundreds-if not thousands-of people
as well as the Museum's All-Sky camera network and a security camera at
XILINX® Corporation in Longmont, Colo. Data from the All-Sky cameras,
the security camera, eyewitness reports, sound recordings from acoustic
arrays at government facilities in Erie, Colo. and Los Alamos, N.M., and
potential data from Department of Defense satellites is helping Dr. Jack
Murphy, curator of geology and head of the Museum's meteorite research
team, with the investigation.
"The eyewitness reports are especially helpful in determining the
track of the fireball," said Dr. Murphy. "Due to all the sightings
lately, there's a curiosity factor that has prompted people to watch for
meteors, and that will help our research."
Dr. Murphy and Chris Peterson, a physicist and Museum research assistant,
believe the fireball possibly deposited meteorites in more than one place
along its flight path. Gunnison and Montrose counties are the likely locations
where the meteorites fell. Researchers are determining the object's orbit
through the solar system. Meteorites recovered after a big fireball such
as this are found to originate from a parent body in the asteroid belt,
a well-known region between Mars and Jupiter consisting of masses of solid
The video from XILINX is one of the best ever recorded of a fireball
of this magnitude. It shows the rapid, fiery atmospheric entry and a large
bright flare as the meteoroid broke apart mid-way through its descent.
After the flare, the video shows the meteor continuing toward the southwest
Mike Nadiak, a science teacher at Montrose High School, and some of his
students, analyzed data from the All Sky camera at their school to help
with the investigation. The All Sky cameras are mounted on the rooftops
of 11 Colorado schools and the Museum. The locations were carefully chosen
in order to capture a more complete view of the entire Colorado sky down
to the horizon. Other camera networks have been deployed, both in the
U.S. and overseas, to study the night sky. But, the Denver Museum of Nature
& Science's All Sky program is unique because it emphasizes student
participation and education. In addition, the equipment is low-cost, high-performance,
low-maintenance and weatherproof.
The security camera video captured at XILINX has been graciously donated
to the Museum for educational purposes. It would not have been recovered
if it wasn't for a security guard who noticed a bright flash on the monitor.
The next day, when she read about the meteor, she reported the image to
her supervisor who called the Museum. XILINX, based in San Jose, Calif.
with an office Longmont, Colo. is the leading supplier of complete programmable
logic solutions, including advanced integrated circuits, software design
tools, predefined system functions, and unparalleled field engineering
Additional meteor sightings in Colorado should be reported to www.cloudbait.com,
a Web site operated by Peterson. Media should direct all fireball inquiries
to the Museum's public relations office at (303) 370-6384 or (303) 370-6407.
Specimen identification requests should be sent to the Museum's Earth
Sciences Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.