Re: Off Topic: Kurt...

Posted by Kurt Maurer on Oct 7, 2004

Rob, it was what we call a bolide. Basically, that means a big honkin' meteor that lasts a good long time (relatively speaking, of course). It was probably a chondrite, which basically means a chunk of rock with metallic inclusions; very typical space dirt.

While rare, they're certainly not unheard of. I have seen probably a half dozen in my time... but then, I often spend all damn night outside looking up. I have never heard one make a sound, but they often do according to reports; usually in the form of sonic booms, or sizzling sounds, or even both.

You probably did see an afterglow, or lighted trail left behind. It's called a plasma trail, and is the same thing reentering spacecraft produce when they come home. It's made up of ionized molecules of atmospheric gases, which basically (kinda) means that a bunch of "air" caught fire, then burned out.

The explosive event that wrapped up the spectacle was exactly that. When the hurtling rock hits the denser layers of the upper atmosphere, it's kinda like when you belly-flopped off the diving board as a kid. BOOM! OW!! The erstwhile soft "air" becomes hard as granite when you hit it at such high speeds. In the bolide's case, just think of a snowball hitting a brick wall, and you have it pictured nicely.


Cheers, Kurt

In Response to: Off Topic: Kurt... by Robert N Pruden on Oct 7, 2004