I think I just saw a frickin' meteorite

About a month ago I started getting into Astronomy… bought a 60mm refractor and a bunch of books. I also pulled out my grandmother’s old binoculars and have been having a bit of fun with them.

Anyway… this evening I was out in my back yard and I saw something moving very fast across the sky. It was huge and bright and kind of orange. I live relatively close to Sydney airport and get a lot of planes going overhead so I know what they look like, and this was not a plane. It’s a clear night and although I couldn’t be bothered dragging out the scope, I had my binoculars in my hand and so had a look at this thing. It appeared to comprise of about four or five separate objects, moving together with a long tail out behind.

The reason I’m posting this here is that I’m a little bit confused. Most shooting stars I’ve seen before are tiny little pin-pricks of light, high up, that flash past quickly and are gone before you blink. This went on for the best part of 20 seconds until it went out of view behind a tree. and appeared to be quite low in the sky.

Did I see what I though I saw, or does this sound ridiculous?

Anyone else in sydney/NSW see this? About 12.20am 28/2/2004?

I’ve seen something very similar in broad daylight - in a clear blue sky. A bright white light leaving a trail, which split in two as I was watching it. I guess it was a meteor or maybe a bit of space junk coming home. It was way bigger and brighter than meteorites/shooting stars I’ve seen at night.

It would be ridiculous if you said it was a Nazi UFO.

No, it didn’t look anything like Nazi UFOs either. We get them near my uncle’s farm, especially on home-brew night.

This was a big orange streak across the sky… too quick to be entirely sure of what you’ve seen, but too slow to be entirely unsure of what you’ve seen.

And now there’s an odd rumbling in the East. It sounds like thunder, but the sky’s clear as a bell.


Sounds like a plane. Could it possibly have been a military jet with its afterburners lit?

just a small nitpick here: As long as the object is till in the sky and has not reached the surface, it is called a meteor. Any parts that reach the ground and remain intact are then meteorites.

I don’t believe so.

I live quite close to a major international airport. The airspace is incredibly tightly controlled. I get a lot of comercial planes around, but almost no military. Also, the segments i saw appeared to be moving apart somewhat. I don’t believe that it was a plane at all, but of course I could be wrong.

I’m sure there’ll be a whole bunch of UFO sightings reported on tomorrow’s news and someone from the observatory will have something to say.

It doesn’t sound too unusual to me. Sounds like it had broken up in several bits. Did you hear any sounds? Something like a sonic boom? It doesn’t sound too unusual to me.

Keep an eye on Google news. They get a lot of small newsites with small stories on them, there’s a chance there might be a report on it eventually. There is a report of one above Alaska right now.

The International Meteor Organization has a report page for Fireballs. If you think you saw one you can submit it. Maybe they can help confirm what you saw. Or at least prepare you for the next time you see one. Then you can make all the proper observations for reporting it. Their main page was recently updated but some of their deeper ones are pretty old. So I don’t think they’re defunct.

It sounds to me like a large meteor, or else a large piece of space debris burning up on re-entry.

[Geeky astronomical hijack]
Just getting into astronomy…and in the Southern Hemisphere, to boot? You’re lucky because you can observe a few good objects that we can only read about. The globular cluster Omega Centauri is supposed to be the best there is for a small telescope.

Oh well, I guess our Northern Hemisphere counterpart to that might be Eta Cassiopeiae, which is a nearby double star, each of whose components is smaller than our Sun. I find that sort of thing interesting because most of the stars that are familiar to us are so much bigger than the Sun.

What direction was the object traveling? I’d think that west to east would make it a bit more likely to be man-made space junk.

You could also ask at the G’Dope board at http://pub31.ezboard.com/bgdope

If nothing else pans out, try the newsgroup sci.astro.satellites.visual-observe. Re-entry predictions of major space junk are sometimes posted.

Could it have been an iridum flare? I can’t recall the website, but you could cross-reference your observation time with the times they have in their database.

I’ve seen Iridium flares (info here… doesn’t sound at all like that.

It sounds to me like you simply saw a meteor that broke up in the atmosphere. Not all that unusual, really, but pretty cool to see!

(Or Nazi UFOs… don’t let anyone say that I squash good paranoid theories!)

WHO TOLD YOU ABOUT NAZI UFOS? THAT IS TOP SECRET INFORMATION! Err…I mean… Besides, uh, everyone knows that, uh, NAZI UFOs only come on alternate … Tuesdays! in …uh… March during … leap years, right? Right? Right???

I’d advise you to stay away from that telescope, Kingswood, unless you want a visit from the Boys in Aquamarinish-Puce–Well, There’s A Touch of Maroon In It, Too. After All, Our Administration Has SOME Style, Unlike Capitalist Scum.

No, I didn’t say ‘Our Administration’, fellow Dopers. Y’all are too suspicious… Everyone satisfied? Good.

::puts machine gun back in sandal::

Damn it, that smilie totally ruined the mood. Let’s try this again:

::puts machine gun back in sandal::

I can see omega centuri from my back yard. It’s awesome (as in awe inspiring). It looks best through binoculars, though. Although I recently bought a contrast-boosting filter that I’ve yet to try on it. The first time I found that patricular cluster I wasn’t even looking for anything… it was just “stars, stars, stars… what the hell’s that?”

Being smack in the middle of one of the world’s largest cities (geographically speaking) means that you can really see practically nothing due to the bloody light pollution, which is a pisser. The magellanic clouds are completely invisible, as are half the stars that you’d normally rely on to direct you to the really cool stuff.

I did see aurora when I was in Tassie, though. Amazing.

Any other suggestions you could make for the southern hemisphere?

dwalin… Alternate tuesdays in march during a leap year, huh?? well by my counting that’s about a week away. I’ll be waiting with my tinfoil hat.