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Fireball or Space Junk?

Started by NoelC, Jan 04, 2020, 11:57:19

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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?

Synta mount, a bunch of telescopes and a shed (on wheels).


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...