Spectacular Mexico Meteor Recalls Great Daylight Fireball Of 1972

Video of the Aug. 21, 2013 Mexican daylight fireball. No sounds were heard by eyewitnesses

On the afternoon of Aug. 21 a fireball strikingly reminiscent of the Great Daylight Fireball of 1972  streaked across the sky near San Luis Potosi in central Mexico. Fortunately, a few people caught its passage with video cameras and cellphones.

Another video of the fireball taking from a moving car

Since there’ve been no reports of falling meteorites, it’s possible the space rock responsible for the spectacular display either skipped off the atmosphere and returned to outer space or fragmented and disintegrated.

A fireball similar to the Mexican one streaked over Wyoming on August 10, 1972 and came as close as 35 miles before skipping back into space. See video below. Credit and copyright: Antarctic Search for Meteorites program, Case Western Reserve University, James M. Baker

The meteor’s speed is amazing. My hunch is in the neighborhood of 40-50,000 mph (56-80,000 km/hr) based upon a similar daylight fireball that etched a chalky streak above the Grand Tetons in Wyoming on Aug. 10, 1972.  A tiny asteroid estimated at 10-32 feet (3-10 meters) in diameter entered Earth’s atmosphere over Utah at 50,000 mph that afternoon and traveled some 2,000 miles to a point over central Alberta, Canada. There it bid a fond farewell and returned to space. Easy come, easy go.

Video of the Great Fireball of 1972

Like a rock skipped on a pond, the truck-sized meteoroid briefly skimmed the rarified air 35 miles (57 km) above Earth surface and “landed” back in space to continue an orbit around the sun. To this day, the object known as US19720810, remains an Earth-crosser, though its orbit was changed by the close encounter. The burned and bruised space rock last passed near the planet in August 1997.

How do we know so much about an object that dashed by so briefly so long ago? Beginning in the early 1970s the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has kept an eye on missile launches and the like using classified satellites equipped with infrared sensors. These space based eyes also routinely record brilliant fireballs and exploding meteoroids in Earth’s atmosphere.

Path of the 1972 fireball adapted from an illustration by Donna Wolke

The 1972 atmospheric impact was the first fireball to be recorded with the new technology. Later analysis showed it was an Apollo-class asteroid first detected at an altitude of about 45 miles (73 km). It dipped as low as 33 miles (53 km) over the Idaho-Montana border before climbing back out of the atmosphere and into space. The entire passage lasted about 100 seconds.

Apollos are Earth-crossing asteroids. The February 15 Russian Chelyabinsk meteor fireball also belonged to the Apollo class. Astronomers have found about 240 of an estimated 2,000 of the largest Earth-grazers, those one kilometer or larger. The bad news (or good news if you like fireballs) is there are about 80 million Apollo-ettes buzzing around out there.

For the latest on the Mexico meteor including more videos, click over to Dirk Ross’s fab Latest Worldwide Meteor / Meteorite News.

** Bright fireball update: A major fireball brighter than the half moon blazed over the southeastern U.S. at about 2:27 a.m. CDT Aug. 28. Sonic booms were heard, and it’s likely meteorites from the breakup of the object reached the ground near Cleveland, Tennessee. Click HERE for photos, a video and updated info.

10 Responses

  1. Lynn

    Hi Bob
    I just wrote this here as the story may be silly so I didn’t want too many people to read it lol, I read a story in the dailymail newspaper blogspot and the guy is telling you different stories on asteroids and he goes onto saying about 2005 YU55, and I thought he was talking about this asteroid but he says update for August so it can’t be that if YU55 didn’t come close until the November of that year, well he goes onto saying that according to the AP, reports that an asteroid “compressed earth” and the moon is an object, said project manager for Nasa’s earth object office, tangyuemansi, told Reuters last week, well it would obviously be the week before he updated in August, he started other stories from 2011 but I am sure He goes onto 2013, I was trying to send you the link but it’s not working, just a bit worried what it is. Thanks Bob

    1. astrobob

      Maybe he’s referring to the formation of the moon when a Mars-sized planet/asteroid struck Earth 4 billion years ago. The combined debris from Earth and the object coalesced into the moon.

  2. Lynn

    Thanks Bob, I don’t know if that’s what it was as he just updated the article in August but I don’t know if it was 2011, 2012 or this year it was a very confusing article, it was on dailymail newspaper and the story is there from 2011 it was a blogspot thing, so I don’t know if you have heard of it or not, he’s just saying that this story was in August and that the NASA guy said this but I can’t seem to find a story relating to it and as far as I know that is a guy correctly from NASA.

  3. Lynn

    Hi Bob
    Just wanted to let you know that the article isn’t written by a person, it’s been generated by a computer, piecing together sentences and phrases from other articles, it is just all meaningless, so sorry about that, but the part I told you about that an asteroid “compressed earth”, and it might crash into the earth and the moon is an object, said Tangyuemans, project manager from NASA, told Reuters last week, but I don’t know what year as the first article started in 2011 then continues on, so as far as I can gather the NASA guy has said this at some point in a sentence about an asteroid and this website has just put it into the article that’s all a mess, do you know if that guy Tangyuemans is real and was it him that said what you thought it was to do with the earth/moon etc
    Thanks Bob 🙂

    1. astrobob

      There is no asteroid out there expected to “compress” Earth, whatever that might mean. Asteroids strike the atmosphere – and most break up harmlessly, some leave meteorites – but no asteroid larger than a kilometer is forecast to potentially strike the planet anytime in the near or moderately distant future.

  4. Lynn

    Thats ok Bob you helped enough and I agree with what your saying it’s nothing but a dead end, I think it’s mostly a load of baloney:-)

  5. SebastienP

    Hi Bob, just letting you know. These videos from a mexican meteor were Computer animations 🙁
    ” CONCLUSION- Mexico “Meteor” EVENT FAKED!
    Four of five video locations have been located.for the “Mexico event”. Determination based on 4 of 5 video locations is that this event was staged, ie faked. Direction/s of travel cannot match a single or even double event. Analysis was done by experts in the US, Finland, Japan and others in Brasil and Mexico.
    Video analysis on all five videos done by a team of three Brazilian students independently, shows CGI produced videos.
    Thank you for all of your dedicated help and long hours with this case.
    I still have many things to study and the last video is almost found, I think I have spotted the location.
    Best, Dirk Ross…Tokyo ”

    1. astrobob

      Hi Sebastien,
      Yes, it appears we’ve all been duped, even Dirk! I’ve been following the discussion online and it’s been back and forth about whether they’ve been faked or not. I planned to write a blog once it was definitive. I’ll check with Dirk today to get the latest. Sounds like he was still working “on the case”. Thanks for the update.

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