January 4, 2007 Fireball

2007.01.04 FireballThis event was widely observed over Colorado at 6:15 AM MST. It was reentering space junk, not a natural meteor. The reentry was seen by witnesses in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, and Arizona. It was captured on several allsky cameras, and was also recorded by several news helicopters in the Denver area. The object was in a polar orbit, and decayed over Wyoming and Colorado. It was traveling north to south at longitude W 108°, beginning in north Wyoming. It began breaking up north of Riverton, Wyoming, continued down across Meeker, Colorado, just west of Grand Junction, Colorado, and ended south of Farmington, New Mexico.

The total ground path was about 800 km, which was covered in two minutes. When it started burning it was traveling 8 km/s at a height of 63 km. At the end it was traveling 5 km/s at a height of 56 km. Its average velocity was 6.5 km/s (15,000 mph). The low rate of altitude loss indicates that the body was experiencing some lift.

The top image is the decay as recorded by the Cloudbait allsky camera. The bright object in the west is the Moon; the debris trail is seen between the Moon and the horizon. You can also view a video (188 KB) from this camera, although it is a little difficult to understand. The cameras are designed to detect "ordinary" meteors, which don't break up into debris streams in quite the way this object did. In this case, the camera couldn't quite figure out what to lock onto, so the video has an odd distorted appearance, and some frames are missing.

2007.01.04 FireballThe lower image is the decay as recorded by the Montrose High School allsky camera. The body passed almost directly over the camera. A video (627 KB) is available from this camera. It is a large file, but quite impressive.

The event was also captured by the Douglas County High School camera, although it was just skimming the horizon from that location (Castle Rock, CO).

The object was the second stage of a Russian Soyuz SL-4 rocket used to launch a French space telescope (COROT) from Baikonur, Russia, on December 27, 2006. This stage is 8 meters (26 feet) long and weighs two tons.

Listen to the interview I did with Warren Olney for his syndicated NPR show, To the Point. My segment starts 41 minutes into the January 4 program.

This map shows the ground path of the reentering debris. It was visible over the entire path shown, and may have been visible before and after the indicated area. The black squares indicate the locations of witnesses who submitted reports to this site.2007.01.04 Ground Path

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 2007, Chris L Peterson. All rights reserved.