Orpington Astronomical Society

Random Rambling Ruminations => Chat => Topic started by: NoelC on Jan 04, 2020, 11:57:19

Title: Fireball or Space Junk?
Post by: NoelC on Jan 04, 2020, 11:57:19
I saw a really bright fireball last night over Harvel in Kent.
It was just after 5pm, and the stars weren't properly out when it came scooting across about 45-50° of sky too bright for anything else (far brighter than a plane) and moving very fast in a southerly direction.  It extinguished at the end and left a faint trail of smoke which disappeared over the course of a minute or so.
I've always wanted to see a fireball; but the only thing that spoils it slightly is that I suspect it was just a piece of space junk because it moved so rapidly (although I didn't hear anything).  Looking on the bright side; perhaps it was one of Elon's satellites from his swarms.  Sorry not to have had a picture of it, but it was a bit quick, it went in a second or so.
I have seen space junk before; two streakers during day time, one of which broke up and left a bit of flaming debris that fell downwards at the end of it's travel.
Is there any formal advice on distinguishing between space junk and meteorites?

Title: Re: Fireball or Space Junk?
Post by: Rick on Jan 04, 2020, 14:19:23
Generally space junk will be moving rather slowly, as it's usually just dropping out of Earth orbit into the upper atmosphere. Meteors (of whatever size) are usually in a solar orbit that just happens to intersect with Earth, so their speed relative to the Earth is likely to be faster. Depending a bit on whether they're approaching from behind the Earth or ahead of it they may be going a whole lot faster...