Author: By Mike Stark, Associated Press
The video from outside security cameras at the University of Utah’s Milford
observatory shows a blinding flash of light around 12:07 am yesterday,
followed by clear images of the object streaking away.
“It looks like a shooting star on steroids,” said Seth Jarvis,
director of the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City.
Although it’s too early to say definitively how large the object was and how
fast it was going, Jarvis estimated that it was about the size of an oven
and was traveling at about 80,000 mph. It broke through the Earth’s
atmosphere and was probably around 100 miles above the ground when it became
visible, he said.
It almost certainly broke up before it reached the ground, he said.
Patrick Wiggins, a volunteer with NASA’s ambassador program, was sitting in
his home observatory near Tooele when he saw the bright flash through his
closed curtains. Several minutes later, he said he heard a sonic boom.
“It was like a low rumble, like thunder,” he said.
Utah scientists on Wednesday said it’s likely a meteor associated with the
annual Leonid meteor shower.
Dave Kieda, chairman of the school’s department of physics and astronomy, said
meteor sightings aren’t uncommon, but to see one this large ? and to get
much of it on tape ? is unusual.
“These things are relics of the formation of the solar system. The more
we find, see and study, the more we can say about that,” Scotti said.
The near-ubiquity of security cameras and video cameras increases the odds
that they’ll be caught on tape. Using triangulation from different camera
angles can help scientists map the trajectory path of these objects and
increase the likelihood that bits of the space rocks can be recovered and
analyzed, he said.
Scientists with expertise in meteors will use the university’s footage to help
estimate its size and trajectory.
“We just got lucky and had a surveillance camera pointed in the right
direction,” said Wayne Springer, an associate professor of physics and
astronomy. Springer has been working at the university’s new observatory,
which is perched on Frisco Peak, about 175 miles south of Salt Lake City.
After hearing news reports about the meteor Wednesday morning, Springer cued
up the surveillance tape.
“And lo and behold there it was, this big flash of light,” he said.
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