Observatory Logo

Date: Fri, 14 Feb 2003 10:04:11 -0800 (PST)
From: David Moore 
Reply-To: info@astronomy.ie
To: Astronomy Ireland 
Subject: Fireball reports swamp Astronomy Ireland

This is a rather lengthy report but I thought you might be
interested to hear what is going on as we have had so much
media coverage - 3 TV news crews in the Shop, photographers
too, dozens of live radio interviews, and many others for
newspapers. I've even been interviewed for the "Richard and
Judy" show on Channel 4!

At the end there is an offer (appeal!) for you to get involved.

Hundreds of detailed written reports of the bright fireball
that was seen from Ireland around 7:10am Wednesday February 12
have been taken so far (by Friday afternoon some 57 hours
after the fireball). Thousands of people have probably tried
to get through but only hundreds have succeeded so far.

It looks like the meteor itself could have been many times
brighter than the Leighlinbridge Meteorite that fell on
County Carlow on November 28, 1999. Many people say it
'exploded', 'burst' at the end. Such a terminal burst is
useful to help locate the end of the trail, from where any
meteorite would have dropped silently for 5 minutes from a
height of around 20 miles before impacting the Earth at
terminal velocity - about 200 mph. Most reports I've seen
said it was white but reds and greens were reported. As
with the 1999 Leighlinbridge meteorite the fireball was
seen to shed several fragments.

Volunteers in our office and the Astronomy Shop staff have
spent most of their time just taking reports with all phone
lines in use simultaneously for the past 2 days. This has
left very little time to analyse the reports. Our meteorite
specialist Tony Ryan is out of Dublin until Sunday night so
it is  proving very difficult for me to do my own job (I
haven't!), deal with journalists, photographers, TV camera
crews, as well as all the day to day Astronomy Ireland
duties I have (we managed to get thousands of your March
issues of A&S into the post during the past 2 days), as
well as edit and write for the magazine!

The best analysis that could be done in the brief time
available to me (and no one else has been able to help yet -
see below) is that it now looks like a meteorite fall is
certain. The number of calls we have received is one
indication of this based on past fireball reports we have had!
A better indication is the brightness of the object - far
brighter than the Full Moon by most accounts.

At first it looked like the northwest was the most likely area.
Now the West is favoured, possibly out to sea, but possibly
over West Galway (even the Aran Islands?). This is still a
provisional analysis. For example, one lady outside Sligo is
certain it was toward a landmark that is definitely to her
northwest. A man from Clare 'saw' it to the left (West)
of Mutton Island which puts it due West from Clare! Then
another man near Galway saw it relative to Jupiter and that
puts it WNW of Galway city. These reports cannot be reconciled
to give an accurate location for the end of the fireball.
Experience shows people do get things wrong like this - many
of the reports we got for the Leighlinbridge meteorite
could not possibly have predicted a landing zone in Carlow
or any county anywhere near it!

So what do you do? The answer is to sift through hundreds of
reports for hours and see what the majority of reports are
saying. Then we may have to call some eye witnesses to get
more details. Ideally we need to go visit some of the people
and get exact bearings from them, but Astronomy Ireland does
not have the resources to be able to do this last part.

We were lucky in 1999 that 3 members saw the fireball at
10:10pm (when many members would be out observing) and plotted
its path amongst the stars. From these three sightings alone
we were able to triangulate the end point of the meteor to
the north part of County Carlow, which is where fragments
were ultimately found.

If we could get one security camera that caught the terminal
burst of the fireball we could pinpoint the location quite
accurately. Two recordings would allow an even more accurate
estimate. I have appealed for all camera operators to check
their tape for around 7:10am especially if pointing west.
So far no one has got in touch. Some cameras have certainly
recorded the event and the could be holding the secret to a
national treasure!

If you see any camera pointing roughly horizontally and
west please ask its owner to check Wednesday morning's

If you saw the fireball and know the sky well and can plot
the fireball's path amongst the stars, or even relative to
Jupiter (which was low in the West) please email us
immediately: info@astronomy.ie.


We are hoping to set up a webpage with our questionaire
for anyone who saw the fireball to be able to report it
online. This will save a lot of time on the phone taking
down details. Keep checking 
the webpage.


If you are interested in this meteorite hunt would you
like to come in to our offices and help analyse the
reports we have received? Possibly call some of the
witnesses and help narrow the search? Email
info@astronomy.ie if so and leave your name and
contact telephone number.


We have no one for Saturday and Sunday (Sunday Times
are running a piece that is sure to generate even
more calls!) to help answer the phones. If you'd like
to help email info@astronomy.ie and leave your name
and contact telephone number.


We will be writing a report of this fireball for
the April issue of the magazine due out in
mid March, even if we cannot be certain where
it fell.

David Moore BSc FRAS,
  Chairman, Astronomy Ireland, P.O.Box 2888, Dublin 5.
  Editor, "Astronomy & Space" magazine.
ASTRONOMY SHOP: open Mon.-Fri. 9:30am-5:30pm and Sat. noon-6pm.
Tel (01) 847 0777.   Fax (01) 847 0771.
http://www.astronomy.ie (Subscribe FREE to AI's Events emailing list)

Last Revised: 2003 February 17th
WWW contact: webmaster@star.arm.ac.uk
Go to HOME Page Home Page

Home Page