Swedish meteorball

By Phil Plait | January 18, 2009 10:56 am

I’m getting reports (here (with pictures) and here (translated through Google) and here (also translated)) that a pretty big fireball was seen over Sweden last night. A video showed up on YouTube and it’s impressive:

This meteor may have actually dropped debris all the way to the ground (I doubt it hit intact, but instead disintegrated high in the atmosphere). Despite how bright these events are, tracing just where a meteorite impacted can be difficult, so the more observers the better. If you saw this event, report it to the International Meteor Organization! You might help scientists understand this object better, and it might even lead to finding meteorites, as it did in Canada in November.

Tip o’ the Whipple Shield to BABloggees Tobias Wulff and Mikael Pettersson.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff

Comments (51)

  1. gopher65

    Nice! I hadn’t heard about this. I hope they find fragments of it like they did the Canada meteor. Thanks for the Youtube link.

  2. Max Fagin

    First Africa, then Colorado, then Canada, now Sweden. Does anyone else feel like we are stuck in the opening scene from Armageddon?

  3. “First Africa, then Colorado, then Canada, now Sweden. Does anyone else feel like we are stuck in the opening scene from Armageddon?”

    As I understood from the posts in this blog in 2009 already, shouldn’t the sequence read rather something like “First Oklahoma, then Texas, now Louisiana”?

  4. Retrogarde

    It was seen from the Netherlands and Belgium at approximately 20:13 local time (GMT+1). I’ve read reports of people thinking of fireworks. Blue flashes. Exactly what is on the video I guess. A Dutch news ssite reported that if there was any debris left it must have fallen in the Waddenzee (shallow sea north of the Netherlands), but I doubt this.

  5. shy

    Is it the same meteor seen at the northeast of Spain, about 20.00 hours local time?


  6. shy

    Sorry, about 19:00 local time (see the link I posted).

  7. Mchl

    The Nibiru is coming! Can’t you people see it?!

    (A cranky comment for completeness sake by yours truly)

  8. Maagaard

    So far it has been reported in in northern Germany, Denmark and Sweden. Being reported over such a “big” area it is expected to have skimmed the atmosphere and returned to space . There is a fireball reporting system here in Denmark, who will report on trajectories when they have enough reliable observations. I will get back when they have something on it. Any Danish readers of this who saw it can go to http://www.ildkugle.dk/ and fill out the form.

    /Maagaard, who sadly did not see it :-(

  9. It was also seen in northern Germany, and the media is having a ball. Spiegel-Online, usually a more serious magazine, even writes “Mysteriöse Lichterscheinung verunsichert Norddeutsche” (“mysterious light phenomenon baffles north germany”) like it’s something completely unexplained. But the article quickly says that it could only be a meteorite, whose parts (if there were any) probably have landed in the north sea near Rostock.

  10. csrster

    This fireball was seen in Bornholm, Copenhagen and Funen. Could it really also have made it all the way to the Netherlands? The Danish media have it landing in the Baltic.

    Here in Denmark the amount of misreporting of this fireball would keep Phil in business for weeks. The best I’ve seen so far was a headline describing it as an unusual weather-phenomenon. (Just a couple of centuries behind the times there, folks!) The misleading headline is on this story (http://politiken.dk/indland/article631464.ece) and directly contradicts a quotation from a meteorologist in the same article.

  11. Rivi

    Seems my comment that you can add Northern Germany and Denmark to the list of spottings is awaiting moderation. Nevertheless, this excludes the North Sea as impact area. Could be East sea, then. About Spain: possible, and since Earth is spherical this would put a pretty tight constraint on the trajectory.

  12. Gon
  13. Wow, it looks like for some reason the Earth is being pelted with more and more space debris these days.

    Or, is it that there are just more people living today so that there will be statistically more people noticing such events, coupled with an instant global communications so everyone can know about all such events?

    I’m more inclined towards the latter.

  14. I didnt think i would read local (well, kind of.. 200km away or so) news on this blog.

    Click on my username for a short article about it from thelocal.se (Swedish news in English).

  15. Crudely Wrott

    Gon, did you catch this sentence in the translation?

    The fact that the warnings, which also received from different ports Maritime Rescue-come quite far from towns in the provinces of Girona, Barcelona and Tarragona, suggests that it could be several pieces of a racing car, but can not be confirmed

    I’ve long thought that the flaming bits captured on low-res cameras looked a lot like crashing cars. This nails it.

  16. Quiet Desperation

    I heard Swedish Meteorball was going to be included in the next Winter Olympics. At last, full contact, professional snowball fighting is getting the recognition it deserves!

    Does anyone else feel like we are stuck in the opening scene from Armageddon?

    Not really, no.

    I look at the world and feel like we are in the closing chapters of Atlas Shrugged.

  17. Credit for the (fabulous) video is Roger Svensson from Hörby in south Sweden. He was testing a surveillance camera when he captured the fireball.

  18. Gon

    Hey Crudely Wrott,

    I don’t fully understand what you are saying (my fault).

    ‘Racing car’ in the translation comes from ‘bólido’ in the original. In Spanish, ‘bólido’ can be a ‘fast car, formula 1…’ or any other fast object, like a meteorball.

  19. This meteor looks almost exactly like the Canadian meteor over Saskatchewan did. Same angle of entry and two bright bursts spaced roughly the same time apart. Odd.

  20. Grand Lunar

    Why can’t this stuff happen in (or near) Fort Lauderdale?! I want to see some bright fireballs!

  21. PeterO

    I saw the lightning-like flashes through the windows (facing approx. south) while watching television (inauguration of Danish Broadcasting’s new concert hall, appropriately named “the meteor”). My 2½ year old son saw them too, unfortunately. He doesn’t like fireworks much, so he kept his eyes closed for a quarter of an hour while repeating: “It doesn’t go ‘Bang'”.

  22. PeterO

    I forgot to mantion: I live in North Zealand, Denmark (close to Sweden).

  23. kuhnigget

    This meteor looks almost exactly like the Canadian meteor over Saskatchewan did. Same angle of entry and two bright bursts spaced roughly the same time apart. Odd.

    Only odd to you, Earthman. Bwah-ha-ha-ha-haaaaa…..er, ahem, that is….yes, very odd. Very odd, indeed.

  24. kuhnigget

    BTW, since this was a Swedish Meteorball, Dr. BA should have been kind enough to translate for the locals:

    I’m getteeng repurts (here-a (veet peectoores) und here-a (trunsleted thruoogh Guugle-a) und here-a (elsu trunsleted)) thet a pretty beeg furebell ves seee oofer Svedee lest neeght. A feedeu shooed up oon YuooToobe-a und it’s impresseefe-a: Thees meteur mey hefe-a ectooelly drupped debrees ell zee vey tu zee gruoond (I duoobt it heet intect, boot insteed deeseentegreted heegh in zee etmusphere-a). Despeete-a hoo breeght zeese-a ifents ere-a, treceeng joost vhere-a a meteureete-a impected cun be-a deeffffeecoolt, su zee mure-a oobserfers zee better. Iff yuoo sev thees ifent, repurt it tu zee Interneteeunel Meteur Oorguneezeteeun! Yuoo meeght help sceeenteests unnerstund thees oobject better, und it meeght ifee leed tu feendeeng meteureetes, es it deed in Cuneda in Nufember.

    Props to the Borkifier.

  25. Gary Ansorge

    Ah, I see my fleet has arrived,,,about dang time.

    kuhnigget: Please have the fleet admiral report to me as soon as he has come out of suspension. His landing attracted way too much attention and he has some serious explaining to do about why he wasn’t in STEALTH MODE.

    I may have him demoted back to a grub,,,

    GAry 7

  26. TheWhitePhoenix

    Is this a ploy to sell more of your books Phil?

  27. Tim G

    Should we have clusters of video cameras surveying the sky throughout the globe just to capture bolides? A fireball 20 km in altitude should be seen 200 km away at a 5º angle above the horizon.

  28. csrster

    Re: ‘bólido’

    Has the word “bolide” totally dropped out of use in English? Otherwise Phil could title his next post on this subject “Never Mind The Bolides”.

  29. Magnus Björk

    Me and my wife were lucky enough to see this bolide from our living room (close to Gothenburg on Sweden’s west coast). My immediate reaction was that it looked like fireworks – it had kind of a greenish glow and left a yellow trail as it gently descended. I realized that it was a meteor when it kept going for so long, keeping a steady pace, and following a seemingly absolutely straight path. I also remembered the film clip from the Canadian police and realized that this thing was very similar.

    At first I thought that the meteor must have hit just a few kilometers away, but after reading about how widespread the observations were, I realize that it probably did not hit, and were quite far from us.

    Anyway, it was way cool to see it for real, and I would really have been annoyed if I had to read in the papers (and even here) about a bolide over my own home and not having seen it myself…

  30. Lo'ihi


    Veery guood! Vhoo ellze….?

  31. Sergio A

    I have received a report of another fireball seen on the same day (Jan 17) in the south of France (sighted from Toulouse, Avignon, Digne). It arrived 1h20m BEFORE the swedish fireball (18h50 CET vs. 20h09 CET) and it was seen moving in a roughly NNE-SSW direction. As the swedish fireball trajectory has been estimated SW-NE, the two bodies were travelling in opposite directions, so they are unrelated. Witnesses reporting the french fireball on various Internet forums initially thought the swedish video was of the same event, it was so similar to what they saw by themselves…

  32. Robert Andersson

    I saw it too! Living in gothenburg. Sat in my living room facing west, and caught it in the corner of my eye. Compared to the handful of ordinary meteors I’ve seen in my life, this one was *way* cooler.

  33. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Swedish meteorball, appropriate lunch reading. No doubt served up by the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    He was testing a surveillance camera when he captured the fireball.

    Yes, I recognized the initial frame from the daily newspaper. They messed up the headline too: “Mysterious light lightened up the evening sky.”

    [Btw, that doesn’t sound so goofy repetitive in actual swedish, since the terms have diversified enough. But this is goofy in any language:

    I’m getteeng repurts (here-a (veet peectoores) und here-a (trunsleted thruoogh Guugle-a) und here-a (elsu trunsleted)) thet a pretty beeg furebell ves seee oofer Svedee lest neeght.

    It would be funny, if not for the what I believe is the historical background: poor uneducated Swedes immigrated into US without any previous english. When the Irish did the same they got Saint Patrick’s Day, but the Swedes got known for overdone meatballs and bad english?! We must hire better PR people. And chefs.]

  34. andrew

    I saw this one, I am in Sweden. It was impressive although not nearly as bright as it looks on the video.

  35. We saw a large meteor last night (no bursting though) here in central Arizona at approx. 18:55 local time. We were driving due West, and it was directly in front of us. On a clock face it was headed from 2 to 8. It lasted about 2 full seconds, and was blue, then green, then white just before it burned out.

  36. Wayne

    Torbjörn Larsson,

    If it makes you feel any better, most American’s who actually hear a Swede speak English (and most are quite fluent these days) don’t think they sound like the Swedish Chef. As a grad student, I spent three months in Stockholm/Kiruna/Uppsala, and I’d love to go back. You guys have the best model Solar System around, not to mention the Vasa. That ship is sooo cool.

  37. Joe Meils

    It does seem like we’re catching these things on tape more often… but is that an effect of being hit more often, or just the fact that in the last ten years, video cameras have become so commonplace we’re just pointed in the right direction with a camera more often?

    Still, very cool video… watching it immediately reminded me of the opening to George Pal’s 1953 version of “War of the Worlds.”

  38. Gary Ansorge

    I have a wonderful (6 mega pixel) camera that would really do justice to such pictures however, by the time I get it out of my bag, turned on and pointed in the right direction,,,well, you get the idea,,,

    Cell phones are rapidly becoming ubiquitous, thus the possibility that one will be turned on and pointed in more or less the right direction improve with every cell phone sold. By the time I have a cell phone, the rest of the world will be totally wired and pics like this should be common place.

    Next: Pictures of a flying/free falling YETI.
    I wonder if Yeti will glow green or blue as it re-enters the atmosphere???

    GAry 7

  39. This same fireball was indeed also observed from the Netherlands at 20:10 CET = 19:10 UTC, and photographed by a Dutch all sky station operated by Klaas Jobse in the southwest of the Netherlands (where it was very low in the sky). Most Dutch observations are from the north of the country though. It all suggests the location of the fireball should be sought over Denmark.
    Link to Klaas Jobse’s all sky image:

  40. @ Torbjörn Larsson:

    If it makes you feel any better, the last time I went to France I was accused of having a southern drawl, like a stereotypical good ol’ boy from the U.S. South. (I’m from the decidedly unaccented Pacific Northwest.) Because my accuser was smiling (in France!) I took it as a good-natured jest.

    My epulugeees tu unyune-a vhu ves ooffffended. :)

  41. Roger Nelson

    While I did not see the Buzzard Coulee Meteorite (Near Lloydminster Saskatchwan in Canada) on Nov 20th, last year. Many over a large area saw it. I did participate in the search for fragments and found some myself. If this fall was similar, I would not be surprised to see reports of seeing it from the Netherlands to Finland or Estonia. And if it struck on land there will be thousands of pieces to find. I would look on the top of frozen lakes and ponds.

  42. Erik J

    I live right there and I missed it…

    I could’ve had both earthquake and meteor on my list by now but nooo. At least I wont miss the Baltic Sea Tsunami of 200x

  43. Aww, not fair! How come we never get cool stuff like this over Scotland? Those pesky Swedes get the best vodka, the hot blondes and now this!

  44. suzanne

    I live in england and both me and my boyfriend saw the it at about 11.50! but knowone believed us until we saw it on the news, it was amazing

  45. Bigfoot

    Wow, that meteor rocks!


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