Oct. 2nd, 2012

steorra: Jupiter's moon Europa (europa)
[personal profile] steorra
Amazing Meteor Boomerangs Around Earth

In the evening of September 21st, a bright fireball meteor was seen in western Europe and the British Isles.

A few hours later, a bright fireball was seen in eastern North America.

At first, this seemed like it had to be a coincidence - two independent bright fireballs that happened oddly to occur on the same day. It couldn't just be that the fireball had crossed the Atlantic - for one thing, that would have taken much less time than a few hours.

It turns out, though, that calculations of the meteor's path indicate that they were actually the same object; it had just gone all the way around the earth in between. It had skimmed shallowly through the edge of the atmosphere making a fireball as it passed over Europe and the British Isles, and then out again on the other side. Its passage through the atmosphere slowed it down enough to put it into an elliptical orbit around the earth. It went around the earth once-and-a-bit, and came back down to atmospheric height over North America, where it entered the atmosphere again as another fireball, never to exit again.

(One simplification I made in the above story is that the meteor actually fragmented during its first pass through the atmosphere; the fireball seen over North America would have been probably just the biggest fragment of it.)

EDIT: Newer calculations show that this story is probably not accurate after all.

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