Coast Fireball Sightings: March 29, 2009
Readers, if you photographed this event, please submit
On March 29th, 2009, at approximately 9:45 pm EDT, people along
the Atlantic coast of the USA between Maryland and North Carolina
witnessed bright lights in the sky and heard thunderous booms. It
was probably a meteoritic fireball--a small, random asteroid entering
Earth's atmosphere and exploding. News reports of a falling Russian
rocket are probably wrong. The booster stage of a Russian Soyuz
spacecraft did indeed reenter Earth's atmosphere on March 29th,
but not over the Atlantic coast. According to data published by
US Strategic Command, however, the Russian booster reentered near
Taiwan (24° N, 125° E) at 11:57 pm EDT, more than two hours after
the Atlantic Coast event.
Comments: David W. Dunham, president, International
Occultation Timing Association (IOTA): "While driving on MD
5 to get to Loveville, MD, while passing through the town of Helen,
MD, I saw a bright meteor fall from about 50 deg. altitude until
it disappeared maybe 3 seconds later behind a building at perhaps
10 deg. altitude, about 10 deg. of azimuth to the right of the direction
of the road (that would put the meteor's azimuth at about 160 deg.;
it fell almost straight down, I think moving a little to the left
as it fell, maybe starting at azimuth 170 deg. and ending at 160
deg.). I estimate that the meteor was about mag. -6 or -7, and was
mostly green in color, with some periods of yellow; it varied in
brightness, but I didn't notice any bursts with pieces breaking
off; with light pollution in the area, I would have missed fainter
objects. I missed any terminal burst since that would have occurred
too low, behind the building where I last saw the meteor. I stopped
several seconds later to read my self-setting watch; I'm confident
that the meteor occurred at 9:40.0 pm EDT (1:40.0 UT of March 30)
with an accuracy of +/-0.3 minute or so. This morning, I heard on
the radio that a "sky spectacle" had been seen last night
at "about 9:45 pm" over Virginia and North Carolina. My
location was at about long. 76 deg. 43.0' W., lat. 38 deg. 22.8'
of this seems to be consistent with the reports of the meteor ending
(being much brighter) somewhere near the Norfolk, VA region, where
so many reports of the event have originated."
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Comments: Mark Ost: "I am an amateur astronomer.
I witnessed the fireball last night during an observing session.
At approximately 2130 I witnessed the entry and what appeared to
be an explosion of the bolide. The fireball was approximately 36
to 40 degrees above the horizon. I know this due to my telescope
alignment and familiarity with the location of Polaris. The bolide
was traveling in a north east direction. Initially the trace was
the bright green of an ionization trail. The bolide then turned
brilliant white fringed with an orange rim. I timed the arrival
of the sound to two minutes after seeing the object explode and
extinguish itself. I am located in southern Virginia Beach, Back
Bay. Assuming the speed of sound at 600 mph, I calculated the distance
to be 20 to 30 miles (direct line of sight) away. The event was
also witnessed by Kent Blackwell, a very experienced amateur astronomer."
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Comments: Kent Blackwell: "At precisely 9:50pm
EDT on Sunday, March 29, 2009 Mark Ost and I were observing the
night sky with our telescopes. Suddenly, the ground lit up a bright
green color. Gazing skyward we saw what appeared to be brilliant
fireball meteor. As it moved across the sky NNE between Ursa Minor
and Ursa Major it turned from a green color to a brilliant orange,
with a white core. Two and a half minutes later we heard a low pitch
rumbling sound, which was more than likely from the bolide meteor
just witnessed. Many reports have come in from the Tidewater, Virginia
area residents who also saw the meteor. I've
been observing more than forty years but have never seen a meteor
this bright. It was absolutely spectacular!"
on the Virginia-North Carolina state line
Comments: Ryan Rhodes: "I live on the VA/NC
state line 27 km from the coast in Chesapeake, VA. I am also a JPL
Solar System Ambassador. I both heard and the felt the explosion
explosion last evening. There
were many calls to a local radio morning call in show (WNIS, Norfolk,
VA: http://www.wnis.com/index2.shtml). Reports from witnesses who
actually saw the object agree that it was and object in the sky
which at first appeared yellow/orange then turned blue. It was lost
from sight as it went over the southern horizon. The sky lit up
shortly thereafter in a manner best described as a lightning flash."
Comments: Ryan Rhodes: "I Live in Norfolk,
VA right near the Hampton Blvd Bridge. Last night around 9:45pm
I was riding my bike over the bridge when I saw an extremely bright
light flashing across the sky. My initial thought was that it was
a flare or a meteor but it was at too low an altitude. It looked
like it was right over the tree tops. The color of the light was
White Blue and it was very much thicker than any meteor I have ever
seen. The light was flashing and flickering and then it looked like
it just burned out or disappeared. It was very strange and still
has me wondering."
near Hampton Roads, Virginia
Comments: Joseph M Zawodny : "Sorry no photos
or video, but I did hear it. At first it sounded like distant thunder.
With essentially clear skies that was unlikely though. Thinking
about it a bit more, I concluded it sounded more like a sonic boom
- the usual double boom-boom. With so many military aircraft in
the area around Hampton Roads VA I thought someone got a little
careless too close to land."
Comments: Phyllis Goldstein: "I was riding
in my car on my way to work, riding on Moses Gramby Trail in Chespeake,
Virginia, in the direction of Dominion Road when something made
me turn and look over my left shoulder. I had the radio on so I
did not hear any sound. What I saw was a rapidly expanding bright
red light (fireworks red) behind (from my perspective) a long cloud.
The edges were white and the major part of the expanding red light
rose toward the sky. The time was 9:43 PM. Because the road winds,
I am not completely sure of exactly what direction I saw the light,
just generally also toward the North East. It was instantaneous,
and there were no lingering lights.
"Just a few minutes earlier I had just been admiring the night
when I walked out the door at 9:30 PM Eastern Daylight Savings Time.
The area where I live is extremely light polluted, and I was really
admiring the fact that I could actually see the Big Dipper toward
the North East, and the moon was illuminated partially by Earth
Shine, toward the West. There were a few very scattered clouds toward
the East. I could also see many more stars than usual, but being
en route to work, could not admire them for long.
"My daughter also saw the explosion toward the North East,
she states she saw a dark yellow flash of light and heard a rumble,
like that of cloud to cloud lightning. I theorized it was either
a meteor, or some sort major land explosion, like that of a volcano.
But there are no active volcanoes around here!!"
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Comments: Stephen Spencer: "Last night my
wife and I happened to be outside when there were about three bright
flashes of light that lit up the neighborhood here in Virginia Beach.
Naturally the flashes made us look up and we saw a bright bluish
ball with a firey tail streaking in an easterly direction. A few
seconds later there was a tremendous boom and long rumble that shook
the ground. I don't think it was military, I believe it was a meteor.
It scared the dickens out of our dogs, one of whom is deaf."
Pennsylvania (Route 83, Exit 21)
Comments: John Abruzzo: "I was driving south
on Route 83 in Pennsylvania on March 29, 2009. At approximately
9:45PM I was half a mile north of Exit 21, when I saw a fireball
in the sky. At first I thought it was fireworks, but it was too
big. Then I thought it was a signal flare, but it traveled too far.
It disappeared beyond the trees to my left. It was the biggest fireball
I have seen."
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Comments: Cynthia Hoeflich: "I live in Va.
Beach in a small mobile home park near Lynnhaven Parkway, only about
5 miles from the oceanfront. Around 9:30p.m., I saw two brilliant
pale blue (almost white) flashes. We had been expecting thunderstorms
over the last couple days, so I didn't think much of it. I told
my husband I saw what I thought was lightning and a few minutes
later, we heard a loud, deep rumble and we felt our home shake.
It sounded and felt like a propane tank exploding. Our cats freaked
out, as did the both of us. We ran outside and expected to see flames
and smoke nearby, but only saw a bunch of our neighbors walking
the streets asking one another if they heard and felt what just
happened. We jumped in our car and drove through our community,
as well as a nearby condo and town house community to find nothing.
I called my Mom who lives about 10 minutes away West of us and she
said she saw two more brilliant blue flashes, heard a deep rumble
and also felt her home shake. Our second thought was that the nearby
Navy base in Oceana had done some secret tests with bombs or something,
but knowing our Government, we'll probably never know. We all are
still pretty creeped out about it!"
near the FBI building in Norfolk, Virginia
Comments: Julia Ruane-Smith: "My husband and
I were walking our dogs about 9:45pm. I suddenly became aware there
was light around me so I looked up. Right above me was a HUGE streak
of blue white light about the size of a house flying above my head!
Seconds later it disappeared into pinprick of space and then I heard
several explosions. I watched the horizon to see if there was evidence
of a crash but there was nothing."
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