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Fireball Sightings from 2004

Contents

Introduction

Fireball reports, especially those made from the British Isles and nearby areas, are always welcomed by the SPA Meteor Section. See the Making and Reporting Fireball Observations page on this website for details of what to record on seeing a fireball, where and how to report your data.

Below is a list of some of the fireballs reported to the Section from 2004. It mainly consists of those events seen away from the major meteor shower maxima (when fireballs are more common), unless the objects were not part of the meteor shower in question, or were particularly impressive. A "*" in the 'Magnitude and Notes' column indicates further details are given in the second table.

Table of Fireball Reports

 

Date Time (UT) Magnitude and Notes Observed from
04/01/3-4 ~17:30 Bright; possible QUA? Co Clare
04/01/4-5 16:46:45 -15/-18; many reports; meteorites* N Spain
04/01/15-16 23:20 Brilliant; in clouds Herefordshire
04/01/16-17 19:45-19:50 At least -5/-6; 3 reports Wilts, Berks & S Yorks
04/01/17-18 ~18:00-18:15 Very bright Western Isles
04/01/17-18 ~00:00 Brilliant; 2 reports Glasgow
04/01/20-21 ~05:30 Very bright; several reports* Belgium, Germany & Netherlands
04/02/8-9 ~17:45-17:48 -7/-9 Hampshire
04/03/10-11 ~21:55 -2/-5 Devon
04/03/21-22 19:07 Bright Northumberland
04/03/23-24 ~00:29 Very bright; fragmented Avon & Hants
04/03/25-26 22:03 +/- 2m -5/-7; fragmented; 10 reports* S Wales & S England
04/04/20-21 02:40 Brilliant; many reports* Denmark
04/05/9-10 00:08 -5/-6; flared Dumfries & Galloway
04/05/20-21 21:57 +/- 1m -15/-20; many reports* Belgium, France, Netherlands
04/06/1-2 ~22:05-23:45 -4/-10; missile test?* Spain, Portugal, aircraft nearby
04/07/30-31 ~22:45 Brilliant Cardiff
04/08/7-8 23:00-00:00 -3/-5; PER? Cheshire
04/08/11-12 ~22:53 Bright; slow; non-PER Hertfordshire
04/08/11-12 02:47 Bright; PER; caught on video Dumfries & Galloway
04/08/19-20 19:05-19:07 In daylight; very slow N London
04/09/23-24 ~05:27 -4/-7; in twilight; 2 reports Notts & Leics
04/10/2-3 19:00-19:20 -4/-7; 2 reports S & W Yorks
04/10/6-7 20:04 Bright Derbyshire
04/10/15-16 17:20 Bright; 2 reports E Sussex
04/10/21-22 00:18 -4; near-terminal flash Northumberland
04/11/19-20 01:24 -8?; non-LEO London
04/11/28-29 ~07:05 -4/-6; 2 reports* Devon & Wilts
04/11/29-30 21:55 -13/-15? Surrey
04/12/19-20 21:01 Bright; 2 reports Wilts & Hants

 

Detailed Reports

 

Date Time (UT) Notes Details
04/01/4-5 16:46:45 -15/-18; many reports; meteorites*; N Spain Thanks to a lucky video capture by Spanish television, the January 4-5 daylight fireball over northern Spain received wide international media coverage, including in Britain. See the Spanish Bolide and Meteorite Investigation Network website and the Dutch Meteor Society's website, both of which have reports in English, images of the fireball, its train, and some of the small chondritic meteorite fragments which were later recovered from northern Palencia province.
04/01/20-21 ~05:30 Very bright; several reports*; Belgium, Germany & Netherlands Details on the January 20-21 fireball, which probably passed over the Belgian-German border, were otherwise sketchy. No sightings of it were reported to the Section from the UK.
04/03/25-26 22:03 +/- 2m -5/-7; fragmented; 10 reports*; S Wales & S England The March 25-26 event was witnessed from sites between Cardiff and London, and as far north as Birmingham, though there were media reports of witnesses in the Gower peninsula of south Wales and in Essex as well. An analysis of these reports suggested the meteor started around 120 km altitude above the Street area of Somerset, and flew roughly south-east from there out over the Channel, ending up about 100 km altitude well out to sea, some 50 km north-west of Fecamp in Normandy, although this end-point is only a best estimate. The meteor seems to have had a very shallow angle of approach, about 5° from the horizontal. Various speed estimates, flight-duration estimates, and the appearance of a probable persistent train in several reports, were consistent with a relatively high velocity particle, probably similar to the Perseids of August, perhaps roughly 50-60 km/sec. Most reports noted the meteor was fragmenting along much of its path. However, such a fast, long, shallow-angled path strongly implied meteorites would be most unlikely, and the end height meant working out where any might have come down was extremely difficult. Using simple geometric considerations alone (that is, not allowing for deceleration along the trail, the Earth's gravitational attraction, or the curvature of the Earth), any surviving fragments might have splashed-down in the Mediterranean, perhaps 60 km off the north-west tip of Cap Corse, Corsica. This was merely a best-guess, though.
04/04/20-21 02:40 Brilliant; many reports*; Denmark April 20-21 brought numerous sightings of a spectacularly bright fireball to Denmark, as reported by Danish meteor coordinator Lars Bakmann on the IMO-News e-mail list for April 30. The event was probably heading roughly north to south some way off the Danish coast, over the eastern North Sea. The meteor fragmented, and a ship around latitude 57° N, 8° E, reported hearing a whistling noise, which might have indicated meteorites had splashed down into the North Sea somewhere off Denmark, if the noise and the fireball were connected. There were no reported UK sightings of this event, which would probably have been very low in the sky even from parts of near-coastal north-east England or eastern Scotland.
04/05/20-21 21:57 +/- 1m -15/-20; many reports*; Belgium, France, Netherlands The spectacular fireball of May 20-21 apparently flew overhead near the Franco-Belgian border, following a general north-west to south-east trend. Sonic booms were heard at Lille, where the meteor seemed to have passed relatively close-by, and numerous sightings were made from Belgium, the Netherlands and northern France. The object should have been readily visible from southern England too, though no sightings from here were recovered. Some of the continental observers who had clouds still saw the meteor light up the sky. Notes in French, plus two superb images of the fireball.
04/06/1-2 ~22:05-23:45 -4/-10; missile test?*; Spain, Portugal, aircraft nearby June 1-2 threw up a strange "fireball" event. First reports to the Section came via a British airline pilot who had been flying high above the cloud-deck over south-west France. That sighting was at ~22:05 UT, and was confirmed by several other pilots over France, Spain and nearby areas. This event was of unusually long duration (circa 2-3 minutes), and was probably over the Bay of Biscay off Bordeaux, heading towards and over northern Spain. It left a smoky wake after it, which may very rarely happen with a substantial meteorite fall, but the duration inferred a man-made re-entry might be more plausible. However, a major oddity about the trail was that some witnesses claimed it had markedly changed course, something extraordinarily difficult for a natural meteor to achieve, and unlikely even for a re-entering piece of space-junk. The same, or a very similar, long-lasting object was then spotted over Andalucia, southern Spain, crossing the border into south-east Portugal around 23:19 UT before turning and heading north over land, roughly paralleling the Portuguese coast. It was reported as crossing the border into Galicia, northern Spain at ~23:44 UT. However, it is not certain these timings over Portugal were definitely in UT, owing to some confusion in the reports about whether they had been corrected from local time or not. In addition, a holidaying Dutch amateur astronomer observed a similar object over west-central Portugal at ~22:10 UT (this timing was definitely in UT), which certainly suggested there were at least two separate objects/events involved. Radar detections over Portugal indicated the object changed its height and speed quite significantly several times, with ranges of 2100 to 12,100 m, and 120 to 900 km/h respectively, while French air traffic control reported the ~22:05 UT sightings were probably due to an unannounced missile launched from France, or somewhere nearby. There is a problem in that the "missile" flew directly over occupied commercial airspace, and it seems nobody had thought to warn the Spanish or Portuguese authorities in advance, as the Portuguese military were set on alert. What it was - albeit not a meteor - remains a mystery, though there were rumours of a "secret rocket craft", which, while usually the preserve of the UFO-conspiracy theory fans, might actually be close to the truth in this case! Some brief notes in Spanish are here.
04/11/28-29 ~07:05 -4/-6; 2 reports*; Devon & Wilts Details derived from sightings of the November 28-29 fireball suggested it probably flew on a roughly north-east to south-west trajectory which started around 100 km above the central Cambrian Mountains of mid-western Wales, maybe ~40 km south-east of Cader Idris, passed over the southern part of Cardigan Bay, and ended at roughly 45 km altitude, perhaps ~30 km west of St David's Head. If correct, any meteorites following the same track, or a similar one, would have ended up in St George's Channel or the Celtic Sea. One observer reported the object left a ~30-second persistent train afterwards.

Added by:  Robin Scagell