… and a real meteor over Georgia

By Phil Plait | September 1, 2011 9:51 am

While the object in Peruvian skies may not have been a meteor, this thing certainly was:

That was a fireball — an extremely bright meteor — that blew in over Atlanta, Georgia on August 28. The video is from the webcam at the Tellus Museum of Science in Georgia, part of the All Sky Fireball Network (I wrote about them recently when this same camera caught the space station passing overhead, in fact). The other streak you can see moving is an internal reflection in the camera, I believe, which shows you just how bright this fireball was.

Since there are four cameras in the network, they could triangulate on the meteor, getting its height off the ground. Coupled with its apparent speed, that tells them it was screaming in at more than 83,000 kph (52,000 mph)! Given how bright it was, I suspect it was probably about the size of a grapefruit or so. Funny how something that small can make such a bright streak, but then speed is the key here. The brightness of a meteor depends on how much energy it can deposit in the atmosphere, and that is determined largely by its kinetic energy. That, in turn, depends on its mass and its velocity… and these things are moving far, far faster than a rifle bullet.

The Tellus webcam caught other meteors that night too, which you can see here. They’re getting lots of information about the debris that hits us. And since about 100 tons of material enters Earth’s atmosphere every day, there are plenty of interesting things to discover!

Related posts:

Shooting satellites, old and new
New meteor showers points to a future close encounter
How high is space?
Mesmerizing Perseid timelapse video

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Comments (10)

  1. It would be nice if an ad didn’t pop up covering the meteor when trying to watch the video. Why do video sites insist on popups that cover what you want to see?

  2. Kirk Aplin

    I’ll second that. Very annoying.

  3. Neat place that Tellus Museum. A few years ago it was just a tiny 9000 sq ft mineral museum on the outskirts of the suburbs. Now it’s 120,000 sq ft science museum that’s a great alternative in the metro area to the aging Fernbank.

  4. JonF

    Bah, clearly a publicity stunt for the Star Party ;-P

  5. Blizno

    Mechanical engineer here. I’d like to point out that kinetic energy is mass times velocity squared.
    That strengthens Phil’s point that a faster moving meteor has more energy than a slower one of similar mass.
    Double the velocity and kinetic energy is quadrupled. Three times the velocity yields nine times the energy, etc.

  6. Keith Bowden

    100 tons a day… SOMEone needs to go ion a diet!

  7. Charlie

    Those objects are moving at well above the Earth’s “escape velocity” so I assume they pretty much come straight into the atmosphere without being affected too much by our gravity well.

  8. Messier Tidy Upper

    @^ Charlie : Um .. what? If you by “objects” mean meteors like that fireball they are indeed being affected by both our planets gravity well and even more so its atmosphere – what they survive of it anyhow! 😉

    The Earth’s gravity well draws them in and trhe upper atmosphere vapourise them creating the “shooting star” effect.

    @2. Nerull : “It would be nice if an ad didn’t pop up covering the meteor when trying to watch the video. Why do video sites insist on popups that cover what you want to see?”


    @ 3. Kirk Aplin : “I’ll second that. Very annoying.”

    It is. Hate pop up ads. :-(

    If it helps that’s where the “Replay” button comes in handy though.


    “The silt in a house’s eaves probably contains a minute amount of interplanetary material.”
    – Page 70, ‘The Universe and Beyond’, Terence Dickinson, Camden House, 1992.

  9. JB of Brisbane

    It’s even worse when they tack on a 12-second ad that plays before the 3-second vid.


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