Re: satellite reentry or meteor?

From: Tony Beresford (
Date: Sun Dec 04 2011 - 00:43:58 UTC

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    At 10:08 AM 4/12/2011, James Dietrich wrote:
    >I have a question about an observation my brother made a few weeks
    >ago. He is currently in Africa in southern Chad and was in or near
    >the city of Lai when this happened (Lat: 9.4deg Long: 16.3deg)
    >In an email to me earlier this week he wrote the following:
    >During one meeting I saw a meteor, or perhaps a decaying satellite. It
    >was bright and splashing out red sparks. It started just above the trees
    >toward one direction and blazed all the way overhead and continued until
    >it disappeared behind the trees on the opposite horizon. Absolutely
    >stunning. I've never seen something like it before. I wonder if it was a
    >satellite dying.
    James, there were no satellite decays on either the 12th or 15th of November,
    according to decay list on
    Another way to decide between a satellite and a meteor is the duration
    of the event. This is because the satellite can only be moving at
    8km/second while a meteor is usually travelling much faster
    say 30 to 40 km/second.
    A satellite decay from horizon to horizon trajectory such as your brother saw
    could take 50 seconds to a minute.I calculated this about 30 years ago.
    Tony Beresford
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