What was that really big falling star that I saw? (Intermediate)

I saw a really big falling star back in the summer of 1998. It was in the North Eastern sky & I live in NE North Carolina. It was the largest falling star I had ever seen! And shortly after it was gone there was a glowing cloud where it has passed! It had a white to pinkish color & it lasted for at least 10 minutes! I've seen lots of falling stars before, but not one as big as this one. And with the glowing cloud after it, it was really something! The glow was almost Eerie! Could you tell me what it was I saw that night?

Spectacular "shooting star" events like the one you describe are often fireballs, the flashes of light that accompany meteoroids that don't burn up completely in the atmosphere but which survive the trip through the atmosphere and actually hit the Earth ("normal" shooting stars are caused by tiny particles which burn up completely). For a picture of a fireball similar to the one you may have observed, check out this Astronomy Picture of the Day image.

Groups which monitor fireballs exist around the world, like the European Fireball Network which captured the image linked above. Sometimes the pictures can be used to predict the size of the meteorite that may have hit the Earth as well as its location. If you remember the exact date and time that you saw the streak, you can try to search the web for a record of the fireball on the International Meteor Organization's website.



This question updated on February 10, 2016

About the Author

Kristine Spekkens

Kristine Spekkens

Kristine studies the dynamics of galaxies and what they can teach us about dark matter in the universe. She got her Ph.D from Cornell in August 2005, was a Jansky post-doctoral fellow at Rutgers University from 2005-2008, and is now a faculty member at the Royal Military College of Canada and at Queen's University.

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