Massive Fireball Over Arizona

The dust trail left by the fireball photographed at dawn has been twisted and looped by upper atmospheric winds. Credit: Chris Schur
90 minutes after the event, the dust trail left by the exploding fireball was still visible over southern Arizona. Upper atmospheric winds have stretched and knotted the trail into whorls. Photo taken around sunrise at 5:30 a.m. local time from Payson, Arizona. Credit: Chris Schur

A monster fireball brighter than the full moon not only lit up central Arizona’s skies early this morning but exploded with such force, it shook the ground! Amateur astronomer Chris Schur reported that the meteor glowed at around magnitude -16, more than twice as bright as the full moon.

Figures represent locations and number of sightings of this morning giant fireball. Credit: American Meteor Society / Google Maps
Figures represent locations and number of sightings of this morning’s giant fireball. Credit: American Meteor Society / Google Maps

Searing the sky high over the canyons and deserts of the Southwest, the meteor appeared at about 3:57 a.m. local time (5:57 a.m. CDT). While most of humanity slept asleep, enough souls were up or woken up by the display that more than 200 sightings had been reported to the American Meteor Society’s Fireball Event website by noon today. Observers from Colorado to California witnessed the spectacle, with the greatest number of sightings clustered in the central Arizona and Phoenix area.

Over time, the dust trail evolved into a more substantial outbreak of clouds. Credit: Chris Schur
Over time, the dust trail evolved into a more substantial outbreak of clouds. Credit: Chris Schur

“There was a bright flash and the ground shook from the explosion,” according to an e-mail communication with Schur. “We were able to get images soon after of the smoke train from this object. The news media went crazy this morning, and the police departments all over the state were overloaded!”

Watch for the bright flash from the fireball at right taken at 3:56 a.m. by an all-sky camera. Thomas Ashcraft video.

No one knows at this point whether it was a satellite re-entry or a meteoroid from the asteroid belt, though the latter is likely based on descriptions. Satellite debris usually comes down slowly; this fireball was swift. I’m still waiting for more security and dashcam videos to be posted, but in the one above, you can at least see the brilliant flash. Technically, an exploding fireball is called a ‘bolide’, an awesome term that sounds more explody than ‘meteor.’

The morning fireball caught on a surveillance camera

The fact that many heard an explosion is a good indicator that the meteor may have made it through most of the atmosphere and possibly dropped meteorites on the ground. If so, Arizona’s a great place for this to happen. Not only is the state home to numerous professional and amateur meteorite hunters, the climate is ideal to preserve what fell for a long, long time. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if hunters were already on the ground looking for tell-tale black, fusion-crusted rocks from the fall.

NASA Meteor Cam Video of June 2, 2016 Arizona Fireball

As soon as I hear more or get a hold of better video or imagery, I’ll post it here.

14 Responses

  1. Great thanks. It is amazing. But the agitation of all elements, on earth and everywhere in Cosmos = order and beauty is just increasing phenomically at the moment. It is crackling heavily. And earth magnetic protection shield is weakening more and more….

  2. Bruce Rasch

    Hey bob, I live in Payson and have a meteor camera that has a great video of the event. Like a copy?

    1. astrobob

      Hi Bruce,
      Yes! Absolutely. Thanks! Might you have a link where I could put it in today’s blog and share with readers? Youtube perhaps?

        1. astrobob

          Fantastic Bruce! Best one I’ve seen yet. I posted on the site. Hope you don’t mind I used your name, too. Thanks again!

  3. Roger rohrbach the way…my house is right next to the guy who is sending you the video. Roger

  4. D. Condron

    Where are the Doppler radar images of this event located ? Cannot locate any radar images that have been said there were of it. Possibly from military radars with no outside access ?

    1. astrobob

      Hi D.
      I wish I could help you on that. There’s a paid service through a well-known meteorite hunter and Doppler radar interpreter that will alert you and provide that information. His name escapes me but I could get it for you if you’d like.

      1. D. Condron

        I have sent a request for additional information today relating if any radar imagery that may be available for disclosure from NASA’s Dr. Bill Cooke about the June 02, 2016 event over Arizona. It may be a while before hearing back about the results of this request.

        This may be the same person you are referring to ?


        1. astrobob

          Bill Cooke’s a great guy, but here’s the contact I was referring to: Galactic Analytics on Facebook run by Marc Fries and Rob Matson.

  5. What time would you suggest to go out to view the Northern Lights? If you could please reply asap I’d like to go out tonight Wednesday June 8th. I’d appreciate it very much, thanks Heidi

    1. astrobob

      Hi Heidi,
      Unfortunately there are no auroras in the forecast for tonight. Nothing expected anyway, but if you want to go out and look anyway, the best time is usually between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.

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