Several EarthSky Facebook friends reported seeing a bright meteor on New Year’s Eve. According to Spaceweather.com, the bolide – also called a fireball, basically just a very bright and explosive meteor – streaked over the southwestern U.S. at 8:15 p.m. Mountain Time on December 31, 2011 (03:15 UTC on January 1, 2012). People saw it and reported it from Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. Check out some of what they said, below.
NASA scientists who calculated an orbit – using data from the cameras of NASA’s All-Sky Fireball Network, recorded in multiple locations – suggest that the fireball probably originated in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. They say it was a random meteoroid, not associated with the Quadrantid meteor shower which will occur the morning of January 4, 2012.
These scientists say the meteoroid struck Earth’s atmosphere at 26 km/s (58,000 mph) – a relatively slow speed compared to other meteoroids – and disintegrated 82 km (51 miles) above Earth’s surface.
The sightings below are from the website called Latest Worldwide Meteor/Meteorite News:
12/31/2011 Cory Durango, CO, USA 19:45 Mountain Standard 15-20 Sec Watched entry into atmosphere. Meteor traveled over the west horizon traveling from E to W. Believed to have traveled N-NW Bright Blue Sun Appeared Solid. This was rather intimidating. I have never seen an object this large enter the atmosphere.
31DEC2011 David Marshall Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA 2015 hrs Mountain Time 5 seconds East to West, @ 11 o’clock White-Yellow/ Possible impact sound or sonic boom heard Brighter than the moon, big fireball None that we could see. 3 of us saw it, appeared to burn out directly over Alb. NM from our vantage point, just east of there/
31DEC2011 Haig Avedesian Flagstaff, AZ USA 20:15:00 3 sec SE to NE Blueish white moon no moving very fast..S to N
12/31/2011 Esme Arizona 8:23 pm Mountain Time 10 seconds E-W Right to Left Green and Red Same as Moon None None
12/31/2011 bryan hollen carlsbad, nm USA 20:20:00 10 seconds south to north green, gold, flame very bright no looked large
31Dec2011 Jennifer Lee Mesa, AZ, USA 2215 30 sec e-n green, light, orange moon not sure looked like a comet
31DEC2011 Joseph Encino NM, USA 20:10 GMT 20 sec S-N small blue-green glowing object coming from S going N, it appeared to burst/spark, then became a green-blue color. It formed a rather long tail after the burst. Same as Jupiter not that I could see Observed while driving
31DEC2011 Preston Garrett Peoria, USA 2020 Mountain Standard time 10sec Right To Left Boom…1st-white…2nd-green…3rd-orange moon at the end yes SCARY
12/31/2011 Mark L Chandler, az 20:35:00 8 sec until out of sight South to North white with white tail then tail became green, leading head stayed white same as venus 2-3 parts fell off larger track.. Witnessed by 4 people sitting outside
31DEC2011 Jyoti Sedona, AZ USA 20:15 Mountain 10 seconds S-N White Green 1/3 size of a full moon, about as bright Several feet of tail Moving horizontally across the lower sky. I was able to see it through the window while sitting in my living room
31dec2011 hugh sorrells jerome, arizona united states 8:18 p.m. arizona time 3 sec eastern sky right to left bright green brighter than venus no object brightness was consistent with a long orange fire like tail
31DEC2011 Linda Mesa, AZ 2045 AZ standard time 5-10 sec. South to North, traveling horizontally Brilliant green with tail, quiet Neon green, very bright like moon No Seen by 3 people
31/12/2011 Grant Patrick Scottsdale, AZ, USA 2015 7 seconds South to North Green full moon none seen Green ball approaching ground in northerly direction
12/31/2011 Hendersons Mesa, AZ 20:15 MST 5-7 seconds S-N Green with long trail Very bright (moon) None seen Traveling to the north and disappeared into a cloud
12/31/2011 Frank Mangum Clayton, NM USA 20:34 MST 6 seconds E-W Green ball with sparkly tail Same as the moon No Very impressive long lasting event. It looked like fireworks. My wife and I were looking SW as it shot horizontally through the sky. Eventually it just disappeared, and our jaws were left open.
31DEC2011 ROBIN ROCHESTER 19:20 MST 6 Sec East low on horizon slight north direction but mostly vertical down. White / Break up. Venus (But bigger) Yes – Looked like a reverse firework Guessing in Saskatchewan for landing
Bottom Line: People in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado reported a bright meteor seen at 8:15 p.m. on December 31, 2011 (New Year’s Eve). Scientists believe it originated as a random meteoroid from the asteroid belt. It disintegrated 82 km (51 miles) above Earth’s surface.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.