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For about 2 weeks I have been observing the night sky hoping to see shooting stars. I have seen many during this 2 weeks but 2 nights ago I saw what I believe was a shooting star but it traveled from south to north at about eye level maybe 10 ft in front of me. I’m very sure about that distance because it was between myself and a utility building.

I would describe the "shooting star" as looking like a cheap Roman candle in that it was not moving very fast and it was not particularly bright or colorful. I would estimate the size of it to be much smaller than my hand and it seemed to be surrounded by “vapor” as well as a trail of vapor less than 12 inches long. On one other night I saw another one that was much less impressive that also traveled from south to north below the height of a bird house for “purple Martin birds” I believe the minimum recommended height for these is 30 feet. I would appreciate any information as I found it to be a fascinating experience.

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  • $\begingroup$ “I’m very sure about that distance because it was between myself and a utility building.” To be clear this means you saw the building then directly in front of the building was this light? It wasn’t off to the side or anything, correct? $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Nov 6, 2022 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ If this is closed as off-topic (terrestrial not celestial) then perhaps migration to Earth Science SE might work, e.g. "Did I see St. Elmo's Fire?" See also St. Elmo's Fire not dangerous? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Nov 7, 2022 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ I’m voting to close this question because the description indicate a terrestrial, not an astronomical object. $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Nov 10, 2022 at 21:04

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Shooting stars emit light at an altitude of 100km down to maybe 30km. Below that altitude they habe slowed down enough and cooled enough to not cause any visual effect anymore.

The direction can virtually be any, there is a lot of random component to it.

You certainly do not see that between you and an adjacent building, and not 3m from you, or you hear it, too. It is extremely easy to totally miss-judge both, the elevation as well as direction and distance of these phenomena. Anecdotal evidence: we tried to locate once a particularly bright such phenomenon which many of us in the astrophysics group observed as well. It was said to have happened nearby, and it looked like that to us, too. We went around, asked people from the whole municipality and surrounding regions to describe to us where, when and which direction they saw it. Many swore it would have to have struck the field behind the fence. Yet all descriptions taken together, the most likely place was over 150km away.

Were it a light a the distances you describe, it must be artificial,or maybe a firefly.

My personal bet would be on a satellite in a polar orbit, though, which might have entered or left the earth's shadow during the observation or even flared. With sufficiently damp atmospheric conditions it might look like trails due to scattered light.

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    $\begingroup$ @TammyKent It's hard to know what it was you saw. It sounds like it was close enough that your depth perception could give you information on distance. But this completely disqualifies it from being a "shooting star" or something astronomical. I'm afraid you're going to have to keep looking for a non-astronomical explanation. It sounds a bit like Saint Elmo's fire which is supposed to be a kind of electrostatic discharge. I don't know much about it, perhaps ask in Earth Science SE? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Nov 7, 2022 at 13:15
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh thank you for your advice. $\endgroup$
    – Tammy Kent
    Nov 8, 2022 at 4:10
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh I did a lot of looking and reading and I’ve come to the conclusion that what I saw was most likely a countermeasure, chaff or flare, from a jet. I’m approximately 30+miles from an air force base for pilot training. I’ve watched them training, even night training but I had never seen anything like that. I’m 99.999% sure that’s what I saw. I’d been watching meteor showers and it was just coincidental timing IMO. I’m only making this comment because I don’t know how this site works yet or if there’s a place to post answers to a question after it’s been closed. Anyway, thanks again. $\endgroup$
    – Tammy Kent
    Nov 27, 2022 at 0:08
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh I might try that. Mostly it made me think about another question I read before I posted my question that was similar in terms of how low it was and I thought it might be more common than you’d think. Plus it is a good reference to give people instead of “fireflies” when answering “what did I just see” questions that don’t quite match up to celestial objects but have similarities. My goal was achieved because I learned something new!!! Is there a place to show a picture of an object (in sky/space)that you would like to ask a question about? BTW the info I found was from Aviation SE $\endgroup$
    – Tammy Kent
    Nov 28, 2022 at 5:11
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh again, thank you for all the helpful information! $\endgroup$
    – Tammy Kent
    Nov 29, 2022 at 23:37

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