Fireball seen streaking over Northwest skies

Spotters urged to report sightings

PORTLAND, Ore. - There have been numerous reports of a bright fireball sighting from all over the Pacific NW that occurred early Wednesday morning, according to the Oregon Museum of Science And Industry.

According to Jim Todd, director of space science education at OMSI, the reports were about a fireball seen around 5:55 a.m. in locations from Oregon and Washington to Idaho, Montana and Canada.

It was said to be brighter than a full moon, with a magnitude of -8 to -10. No sonic boom was reported, he said, as the object traveled from east to west in horizontal fashion, appearing blue and white.

Deschutes County 911 dispatchers reported no calls on the sighting, but Stephanie Harndon told NewsChannel 21 her husband was on his way to work when "he saw a huge light ball of fire or something on fire going down near Mt. Jefferson." (Meteors are often a big optical illusion of sorts, in terms of how near or far they appear to be and where they are heading.)

More information on the reports is available at:


The American Meteor Society webpage (http://www.amsmeteors.org/)  has the complete listing of the fireball reports.

Anyone who witnessed the fireball can log in for the report.  Once the sighting is confirmed, the report gets processed and a map is created of the fireball, Todd said.

A fireball is another term for a very bright meteor, generally brighter than magnitude -4, which is about the same magnitude of the planet Venus in the morning or evening sky. A bolide is a special type of fireball which explodes in a bright terminal flash at its end, often with visible fragmentation.

If you happen to see one of these memorable events, Todd asked that you report it to the American Meteor Society, remembering as many details as possible.

This will include things such as brightness, length across the sky, color, and duration (how long did it last), it is most helpful of the observer will mentally note the beginning and end points of the fireball with regard to background star constellations, or compass direction and angular elevation above the horizon.

You can also report it to meteor researcher Richard Pugh at Portland State University's Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory, at http://meteorites.pdx.edu/

Several thousand meteors of fireball magnitude occur in the Earth's atmosphere each day. Todd noted.

The vast majority of these, however, occur over the oceans and uninhabited regions, and a good many are masked by daylight. Those that occur at night also stand little chance of being detected due to the relatively low numbers of persons out to notice them.

Additionally, the brighter the fireball, the more rare is the event. As a general rule of thumb, there are only about 1/3 as many fireballs present for each successively brighter magnitude class, following an exponential decrease.

Experienced observers can expect to see only about 1 fireball of magnitude -6 or better for every 200 hours of meteor observing, while a fireball of magnitude -4 can be expected about once every 20 hours or so, Todd said.

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