# What could be the name of a huge asteroid I watched some years ago?

Some years ago I was with my family in Venezuela. I'm not sure about the date/hour, but probably it was somewhat around 2007 in the afternoon. We were talking when one of us saw a huge meteor moving "slowly" from East to West. It was visually about 1/4 of a full moon size. It took a lot to get lost from our view (I'd say more than a minute). We could see the fireball burning and leaving the trail.

I never heard about this in the news and wanted to know if this same event is familiar to somebody else or if you've had a similar experience before.

I mean, this thing was huge and we were just waiting for it to crash but it seems we were lucky.

Edit:

It wasn't a satellite, since we could see the "rock". It wasn't like these meteors which you cannot distinguish the trace from the fireball.

I'm not sure about the date.

• Strangely both precise and imprecise dates. A wide range, but specific days.. How do you remember those dates, but don't know the year? – James K May 2 at 20:34
• That day, before we saw the asteroid we were watching a "plane" flying vertically that caught our attention because it seemed to never stop going up and it was to the east (as it is Guiana). That made us notice the asteroid, since we were aware of the sky. I didn't mention it because it would sound even more absurd. But whatever, if there's the possibility that the plane was a rocket, then I could know the exact date. I know how unlikely this is, but anyways I have lot of free time now. I just need some sources to search for sightings. Those dates are rocket launches that match the conditions. – Samuel A. R. May 2 at 20:57
• In that case look through the launches of Ariane space. Maybe re-entry of a 2nd or 3rd stage or so? – planetmaker May 3 at 7:59
• There were Ariadne 5 launches on all those dates en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – James K May 3 at 8:21
• I think French Guiana is too far away from my hometown to be able to see a rocket launch. So probably these dates won't be useful. But by my description I'd like to know how often this happens. If it's that rare, maybe there was a new about this (we just had national channels and no internet). – Samuel A. R. May 3 at 11:35

## 2 Answers

Meteors don't move slowly.

Large fireballs do occur, rarely, but they move pretty fast, a few seconds at most. Meteors that are bright enough to be seen in daylight are even rarer. When a meteor is falling you can't see the "rock". Even a large meteoroid is only a few metres across, and they are 50-100km up in the atmosphere, and surrounded by glowing plasma. Take a look at some of the videos of fireballs. Very few are during the day (because even bright fireballs are not clearly visible) and the few which are visible during the day are very well know (the 1972 daylight fireball or Cheblynsk)

What you saw cannot be a meteor. Because meteors don't look like that.

Re-entering space debris or satellites move more slowly, and can have more of a "burning" appearance than a meteor, but there is no mention of a satellite re-entry in the database: http://www.satobs.org/reentry/Visually_Observed_Natural_Re-entries_latest_draft.pdf For example on Jan 2007 the rocket for Corot-r (a space telescope launched by Russia) re-entered over the USA and generated many reports. That would not have been visible from Venezuela (and was in the middle of the night).

If you had an exact date then it would be possible to search more deeply, without it, this will probably remain a mystery. (I pondered briefly about a rocket launch from the Guiana site, but they always launch to the East, over the sea (for safety and efficiency) so that can also be excluded.

+1 because although admittedly unusual sounding this is the right SE site to ask about this kind of thing and you're responsive to comments. In Aviation SE I have seen discussions of why under certain conditions planes climbing near an airport will sometimes appear to hover or move in an unnatural way, and I've seen it myself so I know the feeling. I don't know of any astronomical phenomenon that can make a visible and resolved (you can see the size) object move slowly across the sky. Weather balloon, plane, or other atmospheric object most likely.

Artificial satellites take a minute or two, but they are usually dim and only seen at night, at the brightness of unremarkable stars. The only exceptions to this that I know of are satellite flares which tend to last only seconds, or intentionally reflective satellites like the Humanity Star, Mayak (Маяк), or the Orbital Reflector.

• Thank you. I'll check those links. Just to clarify, the plane and the asteroid were not the same thing. We were looking at the sky because of the strange plane and then we saw the meteor. I'm 100% sure it looked like a rock burning. – Samuel A. R. May 4 at 0:22
• @SamuelA.R. yep I see that, and it's good to clarify again for other readers. If it was a rock burning in the atmosphere from space, it would be moving perhaps 10 to 50 kilometers per second, and it would only start heating red hot below 100 kilometers altitude, so it would only take a few seconds to cross the sky, or a few tens of seconds at most. However, popular media and old SciFi movies show sometimes show them moving more slowly for dramatic effect and these get stuck solidly in our heads and superimposed on our experiences. – uhoh May 4 at 0:26
• @SamuelA.R. you can search for "fireball" in YouTube for plenty of examples, but beware that YouTube has plenty of fake stuff as well. Here's an example of what a rock burning will really look like; the blob is a combination of hot gas and over-exposure of the camera. youtube.com/watch?v=3xsieVk7HJI Any rock big enough to see the size of the rock itself with your eye would have killed us all even if it didn't hit the Earth. – uhoh May 4 at 0:30