Have you ever seen a meteor? I mean a really bright one, known as a bolide. I had the good fortune to do just that in November 28th as I witnessed the brightest meteor I have ever seen. As usual, such moments come upon us totally unprepared.
I was driving home from work as twilight deepened, yet I could still easily make out the tops of the trees. I had been noticing the quarter to gibbous moon above me as I drove along; how long had it been since I got out my telescope and gave our closest neighbor in space a good inspection? Too long, with all the hustle and bustle of life.
As I was about 4 blocks from home, I glanced up through some pines to see it; heading East at an elevation of maybe 30 degrees above the northern hemisphere; a brilliant flash of light – totally out of place in such a common scene. I saw it for maybe 2 or 3 seconds. After all, I was still driving and didn’t care to wreck the truck! I hurriedly glanced up again, but it had moved quickly on. It was impressive enough, however, that I vividly remember it, even today; it had a tail about 3 to 5 degrees and a definite green (or blue?) “coma” surrounding the central blue (or green?) core. What was so amazing to me was the fact that it was so colorful; too colorful for a normal meteor. I estimated that it was about the brightness of the moon that evening, or a little brighter still.
Seeing such a sight can be rather surreal. I wondered what it was the rest of the way home and as I walked up the driveway. I concluded that it must have been a bottle-rocket; at least until other folks on the local astronomy club email list started emailing about it. Then I knew exactly what it was.
The next day, those of us that had discussed the meteor were directed to a meteor reporting form at the International Meteor Organization (IMO). Several people at work also saw it; the guy in the cubicle across from me, as well as other friends. Later that day, I heard back from the folks at the IMO; over 25 others had reported it, with fairly consistent descriptions. According to the IMO, the meteor was most likely composed of metallic space junk; indicated by the brilliant colors.