METEOR SPLITTING IN TWO

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nailpounder

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I'm an AMATEUR astronomer, and hence spend a lot of time with my "head in the clouds". Weather permitting, I spend at least an hour a night observing. Every once in a while, I'll see something extraordinary, maybe once a year.

To the point: One night, I saw a meteor, it was the brightest one that I have ever seen. It had the most bright blue core
with the largest and brightest red/orange tail. The width of the tail was almost a degree wide (index finger at arms length). Then it split into two, with two bright blue cores(slightly smaller than the original) with two amazing red/orange
tails, visible for another 5 degrees. The entire event was maybe 3 seconds and covered about 25-30 degrees, with the "split" occuring at the 20 degree mark. The width of the pair of tails was approx 2-3 degrees, increasingly widening
as the two parts separated and were on a slightly differing trajectory.

So what I want to know, has anyone else seen a meteor split into two (or more)?................Al
 
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origin

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Best one I have seen happened one summer night. My daughter and I had just got out of the car when the sky lit up slightly we both looked up to see a meteor moving east to west. It was quite bright and broke into about 5 pieces almost directly overhead it was quite cool to say the least.
 
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CalliArcale

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Oh, wow! That would be awesome to see. It does happen, and such events have been photographed. But you have to be lucky enough to be looking when a large enough meteor comes in. What happens is that due to uneven heating, or voids within the object, or vaporization of volatiles trapped inside, the object suddenly cracks apart during reentry. The event can be explosive, but I think it generally means the object was somewhat irregular in composition (which is probably not that unusual).

Reentering space debris often breaks apart during entry, and bits are seen falling along with the main debris chunk. The Mir reentry videos are quite spectacular; not being designed for reentry, the spacecraft had a lot of sticky-out-bits to get ripped off, and also a lot of pressure spheres (propellant tanks, oxygen tanks, helium tanks for pressurizing prop tanks, etc) which would have burst rather abruptly during entry.

When the Hubble is one day deorbited (it'll be sad, but inevitable), that one will also be spectacular, with the last large piece probably being the primary mirror.
 
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Shpaget

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I've seen one, but not even remotely as spectacular as those two mentioned above.
It was just a very bright one from which a very small fragment fell off and fell slightly behind until it disappeared.

The thing is, I could swear I heard it travel. I can't explain it, since I know how sound is slow compared to light, and how far it was, but I can't get it out of my head. The sound I heard was barely noticeable (almost on the limit of my hearing ability) but it was synchronized with the meteor (no delay).
Since I saw it in a very remote, and quiet area, I'm fairly sure the sound didn't come from the surrounding area.
 
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nailpounder

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origin":1g7yleur said:
Best one I have seen happened one summer night. My daughter and I had just got out of the car when the sky lit up slightly we both looked up to see a meteor moving east to west. It was quite bright and broke into about 5 pieces almost directly overhead it was quite cool to say the least.

Five pieces! That would certainly have been an awesome sight! Thanks for your reply!..................Al
 
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nailpounder

Guest
CalliArcale":2su6y9x7 said:
Oh, wow! That would be awesome to see. It does happen, and such events have been photographed. But you have to be lucky enough to be looking when a large enough meteor comes in. What happens is that due to uneven heating, or voids within the object, or vaporization of volatiles trapped inside, the object suddenly cracks apart during reentry. The event can be explosive, but I think it generally means the object was somewhat irregular in composition (which is probably not that unusual).

Reentering space debris often breaks apart during entry, and bits are seen falling along with the main debris chunk. The Mir reentry videos are quite spectacular; not being designed for reentry, the spacecraft had a lot of sticky-out-bits to get ripped off, and also a lot of pressure spheres (propellant tanks, oxygen tanks, helium tanks for pressurizing prop tanks, etc) which would have burst rather abruptly during entry.

When the Hubble is one day deorbited (it'll be sad, but inevitable), that one will also be spectacular, with the last large piece probably being the primary mirror.

So Calli, what do you think the odds are after seeing something this significant, that maybe a few pieces actually made it to Earth. Meaning, would there be more of a chance at expecting a meteorite? And would a person see a tail all the way to Earth, if indeed a meteorite was to be expected?
 
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nailpounder

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Shpaget":1mdp2ucj said:
I've seen one, but not even remotely as spectacular as those two mentioned above.
It was just a very bright one from which a very small fragment fell off and fell slightly behind until it disappeared.

The thing is, I could swear I heard it travel. I can't explain it, since I know how sound is slow compared to light, and how far it was, but I can't get it out of my head. The sound I heard was barely noticeable (almost on the limit of my hearing ability) but it was synchronized with the meteor (no delay).
Since I saw it in a very remote, and quiet area, I'm fairly sure the sound didn't come from the surrounding area.

Thank you much for your reply! The "hearing" of the meteor is just off the hook! I know you said the noise was at the limit for hearing, was it a low roar or rumble or crackle, just trying to imagine what something burning up at 20K mph sounds like!!Thanks for your reply!................................Al
 
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origin

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I would think there was no way any pieces of the meteor I saw made it to earth. After it broke up the parts lasted maybe 1/2 second.

As far as hearing a meteor - as I mentioned on another thread I heard the sonic boom and saw the flash of a well documented fireball that left some meteorites in Penn several year ago. I just thought it was lightning since it was the afternoon and partly cloudy in the summer. I can't believe I never looked up, I would have really seen a sight .:(
 
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MeteorWayne

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A few overall comments.

Seeing a meteor split in two is pretty rare. Out of my ~ 10,000 documented meteors I have seen none. I know it happens, but the odds are quite low...about the same as seeing a "point" meteor coming straight toward you. I have seen 1 confirmed in 14 years and 10,000 + meteors.

As for the odds of pieces making it to the ground, again, pretty low. So far we have about 20,000 meteorites recovered, with more than 15,000 of that total (not witnessed in flight) from Antarctica.

The number of "falls" (where the meteor is observed, then pieces of it recovered) amount to at most a few dozen in human history, with two in the last year.

In 99.99 of the falls, the object is slowed to a speed slow enough that it ceases to glow, and the remainder of the path is what is called "dark flight" with the objects following a ballistic trajectory, with air resistance resulting in an almost straight down path at the end.

Meteor Wayne
 
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nailpounder

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MeteorWayne":19hosakm said:
A few overall comments.

Seeing a meteor split in two is pretty rare. Out of my ~ 10,000 documented meteors I have seen none. I know it happens, but the odds are quite low...about the same as seeing a "point" meteor coming straight toward you. I have seen 1 confirmed in 14 years and 10,000 + meteors.

As for the odds of pieces making it to the ground, again, pretty low. So far we have about 20,000 meteorites recovered, with more than 15,000 of that total (not witnessed in flight) from Antarctica.

The number of "falls" (where the meteor is observed, then pieces of it recovered) amount to at most a few dozen in human history, with two in the last year.

In 99.99 of the falls, the object is slowed to a speed slow enough that it ceases to glow, and the remainder of the path is what is called "dark flight" with the objects following a ballistic trajectory, with air resistance resulting in an almost straight down path at the end.

Meteor Wayne

Thanks MW. With great trepidation I awaited your reply, knowing this is certainly within your realm of expertise. The "dark flight" was most interesting. By the way, I always record incidents such as these, with a sketch, time stamp,
and a few sentences noting origin/destination (observed), constellation(s) it passed through, and major stars it was near. I will consider myself extremely fortunate to having witnessed that event, as you have made it more clear as to the rarity of what I witnessed..........................Thanks again!....................Al

P.S. It's the only one I have ever seen break in two, AND the brightest meteor I havever seen, period!
 
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origin

Guest
MeteorWayne":1xoeomoi said:
The number of "falls" (where the meteor is observed, then pieces of it recovered) amount to at most a few dozen in human history, with two in the last year.

In 99.99 of the falls, the object is slowed to a speed slow enough that it ceases to glow, and the remainder of the path is what is called "dark flight" with the objects following a ballistic trajectory, with air resistance resulting in an almost straight down path at the end.

Meteor Wayne
After seeing how rare the recovery of fragments is, I decided to do a little research and it does not appear that any meterorite fragments were recovered. I think, I was repeating what I heard from people in the aftermath of the fireball (shame on me). Here is some info on the event that I heard and saw in the southern finger lakes region of New York. Fireball
 
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Shpaget

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nailpounder said:
I know you said the noise was at the limit for hearing, was it a low roar or rumble or crackle, just trying to imagine what something burning up at 20K mph sounds like!!Thanks for your reply!................................Al
I would describe it more as a whoosh, like the sound produced by a strong gust of wind, but just half a second long. Of course, no wind at all that night.
Or even better approximation would be the sound a small model rocket engine produces on the liftoff (I'm used on hearing A class engines, and this wasn't far off). Of course, it was much quieter.
 
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Rado

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I must admit I'm a bit surprised so few people saw splitting meteors. I'm not a regular star gazer, particularly not in recent years, but in the past I saw couple of such events, one of which was particularly remarcable. I would expect that regular star gazers had chance to see such an event in more than a few occasions.
 
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SpaceJeff

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The very first meteor I ever remember seeing split into several pieces, each flying off in its own direction. It was nearly straight overhead, and I know I saw it on October 31st, because I was out trick-or-treating at the time. However, I'm not sure whether it was 1967, 1968, 1969, or 1970. (I'm 52, so it's been a few years since I went trick-or-treating! :twisted: )

Aside from the rather amazing break-up of the meteor, it was fairly ordinary-looking, based upon all the meteors I've seen during the years since then. It just appeared white, and what little "tail" it had was also basically a wispy white trail that did not extend much past the "head" of the meteor. In the years since then, I've seen many meteors, including one that traveled very slowly, showing a "head" that was of an observable shape and (apparent) size, with a long, lingering smoky tail behind it (and this was during the last week of August of 1975 - I remember because I was at a party thrown the weekend before classes started as I entered the University of Arizona as a freshman). It was moving sufficiently slowly that I was able to get the attention of several people around me to watch it before it was even halfway to disappearing.

I've also seen a number of meteors with large green heads, and some of these had green tails, while others had white tails. Finally, at least in terms of memorable meteors, I one time glanced out my window at about 10:15 at night, and I noted that the sky was a lovely sky-blue color. I looked away, and it took a couple of moments to sink in - the sky was blue AT 10:15 AT NIGHT? :shock: I immediately looked out again, but the sky was a more expected black. At the time, I concluded that my brain must have had some sort of odd misfire...until I watched the news on TV the following night, at which time the local news did a story about the brilliant meteor that went streaking across the sky the previous night, briefly lighting up about half the sky like it was daylight - about 15 minutes after 10:00 p.m.!
 
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RichardG

Guest
From a post on another thread a month ago I repost in part it here as it is applicable to the thread title.

Back in the 60's I saw a meteor come down to the north of my San Fernando Valley, north of Los Angeles location. I look exactly like an emergency flair show from a gun on it's return to the earth. It appeared to be about 2-300 yards away. It split in to parts just before passing below my horizon of rooftops, about 15 degrees above the natural horizon.
I later heard on a news report of a meteor going into the Pacific ocean a couple hundred miles off the coast from Seattle Wa. That would be over 1200 miles away, not 300 yards. I was shocked.
Oh It did have a very long fire trail and was very very bright yellow-orange.

A non meteor splitting apart. On another summer evening I observed a large cylinder screaming across the sky from north to south. At first I thought it was an airliner in flames. I had a pair of binoculars and looked at the object with them. It had no wings and was blunt at both ends. Flames came from holes in the sides and from the rear, The flames were at least 5 times the length of the object. I thought this thing was maybe 5 or 10 miles away but it didn't come crashing down like it would have if it were an airplane. It went form high in the northern sky to the horizon in the south.
The next day the news said that NASA had identified the object as a booster stage from a Russian rocket used to propel a satellite into orbit some months earlier and it had burned up before reaching the earth somewhere over Central America.
It was the most spectacular thing I have ever seen in the night skies.

Clear sky's all
 
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Bill_Wright

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I started watching meteors and satellites in October 1977 with the Sputnik launch, unknowingly watching the booster as Sputnik itself was too small to see with the unaided eye. I have seen two meteor storms (one about 1966, one about 2002). I have not kept up a log but would assume that 10k+ is reasonable due to the two storms, defined at a rate of over 1000 per hour. I have seen several splits, none symmetrical. Several of the brightest meteors were accompanied by auditory phenomenon. My assumption is that they were auditory hallucinations as the sound accompanied the meteor as in at least one case it was the only meteor seen for several minutes, seemed like an earth grazer, so the height of the meteor would have precluded sound and the absence of another meteor (there were several people looking in different directions who saw and heard nothing) to cause the sound was not a possibility.

As an FYI, my wife and I started watching together in 1982, and have witnessed exceptionally bright aurora. At various times we "heard" sounds, but they were not coordinated with each other so our assumption was that again that it was an auditory hallucination. The body's senses are just strange and at times seem to operate illogically. However, my belief is with the proper functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging studies these events could be tied together.
 
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optronics48

Guest
I saw a fireball one afternoon in the late 60s cross the New York city sky while driving on an expressway. In apparent slow motion, it left a long trail behind it and then broke up into several pieces, which stayed fairly together and kept following the same trajectory. The fantastic yellow, green and orange colors made it look like very bright fireworks.

What I didnt see was the very large truck into whose lane I had inadvertently crossed into while watching this marvelous show. Nothing bad happened, besides my adrenalin jumping up another five notches when his horn
reminded me of his very Earthly presence.
 
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gordon_flash

Guest
Back in 1966 I saw a bright green meteor split in two pieces, asymmetrically, during the Perseids that summer. It was very low on the horizon, so that might have had some impact on the color. I saw another a few years later, and it was bright red, and almost overhead, another Perseid.

There is a website you can visit and report significantly bright meteors. Go to www.amsmeteor.org, and you will find it.

As to the sound, remember the meteor may have been more than 50 km. away, so the sound would have taken at least two and a half minutes to reach your location. It has, in fact, been documented that people (even the pros) think they hear a meteor as it passes, but, of course that cannot be (laws of physics, you know). People even report hearing the Aurora Borealis.

Finally, your finger width at arm length is closer to 2 degrees, so perhaps the meteor trail was longer than you thought.

All that aside, seeing bright meteors like that is an awesome event. Watch for them during the daylight, as well (I've seen one, and posted it on the website documented above).

Thanks for the post.
 
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billslugg

Guest
Meteors split apart due to pressure from the inside causing them to explode. When the meteor is pushing against the air, the pressure at the leading edge of the meteor is described by the equation that converts velocity head to static head and is V squared over two g, where V is the velocity in meters per second and g is 10 m/s^^2. Some of this compressed air finds its way into the meteor and pressurizes it.

The units of pressure are always in terms of head of the fluid in question. For a meteor that is traveling at 60 km/s the pressure will be 60,000 ^^2 divided by (2 times 10 m/s^^2) or 180,000,000 meters.

That is a pressure exerted by a column of air 1.8x10^^8 meters high. (1.8x10^^10 cm)

At 40 km altitude the atmospheric density is about 1x10^^-5 g/cc.

The pressure at the leading edge of the meteor is thus 1.8x10^^5 grams per square centimeter or about 2500 PSI.

This would be consistent with the strength of soft rock.
 
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nailpounder

Guest
Shpaget":fv6j0z75 said:

Yes , I know exactly what the sound is like! I too am a model rocketeer! Althogh I mostly fire off D's. E's, and F's.
I can totally relate! Thamks for your reply!!.........................Al
 
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nailpounder

Guest
Rado":30t8ujeq said:
I must admit I'm a bit surprised so few people saw splitting meteors. I'm not a regular star gazer, particularly not in recent years, but in the past I saw couple of such events, one of which was particularly remarcable. I would expect that regular star gazers had chance to see such an event in more than a few occasions.
You're a lucky man Rado, observing multiple splits seems to be a minority here. Thanks for your reply....Al
 
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nailpounder

Guest
Thanks to everyone for their "meteor" stories. It was quite surprising how some of the observations were 30-40yrs. old,
yet it was still important enough to remember them and file it in the gray matter for all those years. It made me realize how important these visual oddities were, and are. On another note, it also made me realize what kind of profound impact these kind of things may have had on early civilizations, and the stories that were passed down because of them.
Again, I thank you all!.................Good Seeing and Clear Skies................................Al
 
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