Something I saw in the sky..

About twenty years ago, while at a drive-in theater with my parents/siblings in Illinois, I was sitting on the roof of the car with my sister when I saw an orange fireball fall silently across the sky. It looked as though it was a few thousand feet up, although in all honesty, I wasn’t in any capacity to judge the actual altitude. It appeared to be slowly tumbling end over end, and traveled from the east to west horizons in approximately 5 seconds.

It wasn’t a plane; there are no secret military bases in that area (oh yeah, if it was, I missed seeing something about a flaming, tumbling airplane in the news). It wasn’t a “UFO” full of aliens.
I originally guessed it to be a meteorite, but wondered why something that size wouldn’t have made it to the ground and/or been reported in a local paper.

Anyway, thanks for reading this. Any thoughts as to what it might have been? I’ve read that it could’ve been a rocket booster, or something to that effect, but it seemed to be too ‘round’ to be a rocket.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a meteorite, or some piece of man-made space junk reentering. Things like that can be extremely bright at times, and can vary in color depending on the composition of whatever’s being burned up. White, orange, yellow and even green fireballs have been reported. It’s often impossible to say exactly what the object was, though if you have a date of the incident, you might be able to find out if any old satellites or whatnot reentered around the time.

-Andrew L

How can you be so sure?

Yeah, prolly a meteorite of junk from space. Most of that stuff burns up in thr atmosphere and doesn’t actually make impact.

Can’t those lousy aliens drop their cigarette butts in the garbage like everyone else?

Stupid, stupid aliens.

How secret would they be if you knew they were in the area/ :wink:

Most likely, it was some type of reentering object: rocket body, LEO satellite, or meteor.

Oh, and a minor quibble on terminology. A meteoroid is the name for the body while in orbit. A meteor is the particle as it burns in, and it becomes a meteorite if it survives reentry.

Wisest Novel, that is very close to being correct. A quibble: a meteor is technically defined as the luminous phenomenon as the meteoroid is heated, but astronomers commonly use it to refer to the meteoroid too. You get major points for knowing the difference at all! :wink:

Anyway, it does sound like a rocket re-entering. Orbital velocity of re-entering junk is much lower than your typical meteor, so it really looks like it’s moving slowly. I saw one burn up once, and it was very bright, moving slowly (for a meteor, faster than an airplane) and actually dribbling off molten chunks. All in all, a tremendous sight!

Sir what yo saw was a harmless weather balloon, or swamp gas. Please stare at the tip of this pen.

There is a well known film of a meteor from the 60s skipping off the atmosphere back into space. I can’t remember if people said if it made a sound or not.

I remember back in the early 80s I saw a fireball in the sky. It was pretty amazing but scared the hell out of me.

Sounds like a bolide. The ones I’ve see were mostly green.