Re: Meteor?

Alan Pickup (
Wed, 11 Nov 1998 23:42:57 +0000

In message <012601be0d3d$eb6ce120$0c3010ac@notebook-5>, Heinz <heinz.geh> writes
>    Just by chance (on the way to empty the garbage!) at 21:58 PST on=20
>    10 Nov 98, I saw a bright object streaking from SSE to N. The=20
>    streak (i.e. the time the object was bright) was about 20-25=20
>    degrees, stating at about 55-60 degrees above the northern horizon.=20
>    The object was very bright, much brighter than Venus, and it had an=20
>    apparent diameter of 3-4 Venuses.
>    It was funny too, because as usual in Seattle, it was raining. All=20
>    of the sky was obscured by a thin spotty layer of clouds. The stars=20
>    were not visible.
>    =A0
>    Any ideas of what it might have been? Early Leonid arrival?
>    Heinz

You don't say how long this event lasted, but the terms "streaking" and
"streak" imply to me that it was very brief and therefore an unlikely
candidate for a satellite re-entry.

It is likely, instead, to be a bright meteor, properly called a
fireball, though it could not have been a Leonid. The first meteors from
the shower are not expected until November 14 or 15. You also don't say
where you are located, but I doubt whether the Leonids radiant would be
above your horizon at 21:58 local time. Unless it is, the Earth
effectively shields you from the oncoming meteoroids so no Leonids can
appear in your sky.

One possibility is that your fireball was from the Taurids shower,
specifically the Taurids North stream. This has a radiant near the
Pleiades (probably in your eastern sky at the time) when it peaks about
November 12. It is also known for its fireballs. Incidentally, there is
pronounced difference in speed between Leonids and Taurids. At 71
km/sec, Leonids are just about the fastest meteors we see. In contrast,
Taurids creep across the sky at only 29 km/sec.

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