"Thank you so much for visiting our class on Friday! The kids loved it...they thought it was pretty cool to meet a "real" Astronomer! Thanks again, Janine"
By Jeremy Tatum and Damien Lemay
Exceptionally bright meteors that are spectacular enough to attract the attention of the public and light up the countryside over a wide area are generally referred to as fireballs. With camera networks and satellite-based detections now providing statistical information on the entry of fireballs into Earth's atmosphere, the main reasons to collect fireball reports are to assist with meteorite recovery and to provide orbital information for recovered meteorites. Rapid recovery of meteorites is vital for the study of short-lived radioactive isotopes produced by cosmic ray bombardment of the meteorite while in interplanetary space. Small but potentially recoverable meteorites can be produced by fireballs that are no brighter than magnitude -6. A very slow fireball with no indication of terminal breakup is a good candidate for meteorite survival. The presence of delayed sound indicates penetration into the lower atmosphere and probable meteorite fall. The value of a meteorite is significantly greater when we know something of its atmospheric trajectory and orbit. Visual data can, under favourable circumstances, be used to obtain an approximate atmospheric trajectory. The Meteorites and Impacts Advisory Committee, MIAC (Comité consultatif sur les météorites et les impacts, CCMI), of the Canadian Space Agency maintains a website with images and information on fireballs, meteorites, and impact craters at miac.uqac.uquebec.ca/. If you want information on recent Canadian fireball or meteorite events, check the MIAC/CCMI bulletin board at:
miac.uqac.uquebec.ca/MIAC/wwwboard/wwwboard.html . (Editor's comment: Please note that you need to search the list of links on the second half of this page to find relevant meteor information.)
The preferred method for submitting fireball reports is to complete an electronic fireball reporting form at one of the following locations:
If you do not have access to the web, write a brief report with the following information:
(1) The name, telephone number, and address of the observer(s).
(2) The time of occurrence (and uncertainty in this time).
(3) The location of the observer at the time the fireball was seen (preferably in precise longitude and latitude).
(4) The beginning and ending points of the fireball, in terms of either right ascension and declination or azimuth and elevation. If possible, indicate the uncertainty in these angles. Indicate whether the true beginning was observed and whether the ending point was blocked by horizon objects.
(5) A direct apparent magnitude estimate if possible; if not, note whether the fireball was brighter than, approximately equal to, or fainter than the full Moon.
(6) The duration of the fireball and the persistent train (if any).
(7) A qualitative description of the event (colour, flares, fragmentation, and sound). Report the absence as well as the presence of features such as sound and fragmentation. In the case of sound, report the delay between the fireball appearance and the sound.
(8) The existence of any video or photographic records.
Send your report via email to:
Excerpted from the Observer's Handbook 2002 © The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, 2001. Used with permission of The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. The Observer's Handbook can be ordered at http://www.rasc.ca/publications.htm.