[meteorite-list] Night Sky Show Over Alaska Likely A Meteor
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 09:42:05 2004
Night sky show likely a meteor
SPECTACLE: The FAA and the troopers received calls about a greenish-white
By Liz Ruskin
Anchorage Daily News
January 24, 2001
Sandra Lemke and her daughter were driving home Monday evening, near the
Huffman Road exit of the Seward Highway, when something bright lighted up
the night sky.
"It streaked across the sky, with chunks kind of breaking off and then
burning out," she said. "It was bigger than anything I've ever seen before."
It was about 75 degrees above the horizon, she said, and traveled east to
Her teenager was awestruck.
"Oh Mom, what was that?" she asked.
Lemke said she thought it might be space junk falling into the Earth's
atmosphere. She'd read that the Russian space station Mir was having
problems. Maybe a chunk of it fell off.
Scott Johnson, a spokesman for the Air Force Space Command in Colorado
Springs, Colo., said it was probably a meteor. He said he hadn't been
notified of any man-made space debris falling at that hour.
The Lemkes weren't the only ones floored by the spectacle.
The Federal Aviation Administration got two calls Monday night from people
in the Glennallen area who both reported a greenish-white flash. Both
callers said it occurred at 8:20 p.m. Lemke said her dashboard clock read
No aviation accidents or overdue flights had been reported to the FAA that
evening, according to the agency's operations center.
The Alaska State Troopers in Glennallen took a similar report.
Karen Engstrom and her 9-year-old daughter were walking their dog near
Anchorage's University Lake when they saw it.
"It lit up the sky," she said. "It was like fireworks."
It had a beautiful tail and seemed so close it looked like it was landing in
the inlet, she said.
Her daughter made a wish.
Engstrom figured it was a meteor.
"Either that or a jet engine landing in someone's bedroom," she said.
A meteor is a streak of light across the sky, and especially bright ones are
called fireballs. They are caused by naturally occurring space debris,
usually ranging in size from a grain of sand to a pebble. The particles
hurtle easily through the vacuum of space and then plow into the Earth's
thick atmosphere. The friction of the air causes them to vaporize in a
Because the debris hits the atmosphere traveling to 45 miles per second, an
object the size of a grain of rice can produce a mile-long tail.
Fireballs, because of their brightness and sudden appearance, give the
illusion of closeness. Airline pilots have swerved for meteors that were
actually 100 miles away, according to Sky and Telescope magazine.
Sometimes fireball fragments fall to Earth and are recovered, as happened
last year in British Columbia. That fireball, which exploded in the night
sky on Jan. 18, was witness from Juneau to the Yukon.
Whatever she saw Monday night, Lemke said, it was amazing. She wanted to
honk her horn and ask other drivers if they saw it, too.
"I've lived in Alaska for 22 years and it was just the most interesting
thing I've ever seen," she said.
Liz Ruskin can be reached at lruskin_at_adn.com or 257-4591. Reporter Doug
O'Harra contributed to this report.
Received on Thu 25 Jan 2001 06:56:53 PM PST