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enter image description hereI took this picture with my iPhone on January 23, 2023 @6:01pm CST. I am in West Central Alabama very close to the Tenn-Tom Waterway a few miles from the MS state line. I was facing west-southwest.

I believe that I saw the terminus of the fireball shooting star but it seemed more like a flash instead of an explosion so I’m just not sure about what it was. Also, there were no meteor showers active in this area at this time so I was wondering if a fireball is the same thing as a shooting star?

moon, 2 planets, fireball / shooting star

This is link to video. However the object doesn’t show up on YouTube so I guess there is quality loss in uploading it. This is a screenshot from the video. I circled the object. It shows up in the video at 1 second and the flash happens right before 3 seconds. Hope this helps.enter image description here

This is a screenshot of file properties, maybe that will offer additional information.

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    $\begingroup$ The file properties will give the duration of the exposure which would help decide if the streak is an airplane contrail or fireball. For example, daytime photos are often around 1/100 second. It would be extremely unlikely to photograph a meteor with such a short exposure. A photo at dusk will be a longer exposure, but probably still a fraction of a second (and not likely to be lucky to capture a meteor). Not a definitive solution since luck is a factor. Some iphones record a short video leading up to the photo. If that exists, it might help to decide between a meteor or not. $\endgroup$
    – JohnHoltz
    Jan 31, 2023 at 17:06
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, but I would bet more towards an airplane flying high, with its condensation trail behind it. A meteor would have left a line behind it plus the eventual “gassy puff,” yet we don’t see this. Also, the “object” seems wider than its tail, which would make sense if it were wingtip lights, as the engines are closer to the fuselage. Sorry if I burst your bubble. $\endgroup$ Feb 1, 2023 at 4:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Pierre I’m 100% alright if it’s not a fireball. But I’m also certain that it’s not an airplane . And I even agree that it’s most likely not an fireball because not only did I get the photograph, I was able to get a short extremely poor quality video. It shows it descending and what appears to be a slight flash and then it is not visible anymore. This picture was absolutely a lucky shot, I was already snapping a few shots of the moon and planets when it entered my field of view. I initially had difficulty seeing it except on the camera screen. $\endgroup$
    – Tammy Kent
    Feb 3, 2023 at 20:04
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnHoltz I have a short very poor quality video. I’m going to get somebody to help me get it on here and try to find the file properties that you mentioned. All a little above my ability level but I’m trying to learn. Mine is a IPhone 14plus and I’ve had it a very short time so still figuring it out too. $\endgroup$
    – Tammy Kent
    Feb 3, 2023 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks, the video is very useful, and I've been able to update my answer. $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Feb 4, 2023 at 8:08

3 Answers 3

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Yes, Moon, Venus and Saturn. This can be confirmed with (for example) Stellarium.

The object you see is a contrail of an airplane.

A fireball is a bright meteor, and a shooting star is a less bright meteor, but they are basically the same thing. Some fireballs leave trails, many don't.

In the photograph, at 6:01, the object appears to the right and slightly above the moon. In the video capture, which is shown as "6:03" the object has moved and is now aligned with the two planets (relative to the horizon) It has taken at least one minute and probably two minutes to transverse that section of the sky.

Fireballs are bright and fast. A meteor or fireball would be move and be gone in about 1 second.

This is therefore (most likely to be) a contrail of a jet, lit by the sun that is still above the horizon at its location. The flash would be a reflection from the plane as it catches the sun.

"Sporadic" meteors and fireballs occur all year, unassociated with any particular shower. A bright meteor could look more like a "streak and flash" and not like an "explosion".

Previous answer: The other object might be a meteor. A fireball is a bright meteor, and a shooting star is a less bright meteor, but they are basically the same thing. Looking at the photograph alone, I would have said that it looks like an aircraft contrail, lit by the sun that is below the horizon. But if you saw a "flash" that would suggest a meteor.
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    $\begingroup$ You wouldn't have time to "watch untl the flash happened", the streak of a shooting star would be over in less than a second. $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Jan 31, 2023 at 6:56
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    $\begingroup$ You said it in your answer, it must have been a fireball: amsmeteors.org/fireballs/faqf I've seen one, it's amazing. $\endgroup$
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 31, 2023 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ The usual way to add a video would be to upload it to youtube (or similar) and link to the video from the question. $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Feb 1, 2023 at 0:20
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    $\begingroup$ This answer has been entirely rewritten in response to the video-capture. The previous answer is preserved in a footnote. $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Feb 4, 2023 at 8:09
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    $\begingroup$ yes, that tick mark is to accept. $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Feb 4, 2023 at 23:55
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If you think you saw a fireball, there are some online resources that you can check to confirm your observation. Many countries have detection networks (FRIPON for Europe for instance) and/or citizen science projects where anyone can report sighting a fireball. In the US, the All-sky Fireball Network has some cameras recording the night sky, but I couldn't find a fireball detection at the time you mentioned (which would be January 24, 00:01 UTC). The American Meteor Society compiles fireball reports from citizens, but again, I could not find any record at the time mentioned. Note that they only list event with 5+ reports, so it could just be that not enough people witnessed it (or bothered reporting it).

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Yes, (as other answers have already stated) those are Venus, Saturn, and the Moon.

To address that proposed fireball; it could be anything.

It could be an old satellite of some kind reentering the atmosphere, it could be a meteor, it could be something else as well. It is not this satellite but they do burn up all the time.

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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh well at least I had a photo this time lol and now I can also rule out counter measures, chaff and flare. I would really just like to know what it was as I’m still trying to learn! I still get excited when I see something different in the night sky. Unfortunately it has been bad weather here and I haven’t been able to see the “green comet” $\endgroup$
    – Tammy Kent
    Feb 3, 2023 at 20:16
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    $\begingroup$ @TammyKent unfortunately, I think last night was the last night you could :( $\endgroup$ Feb 3, 2023 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ @TammyKent ha, great! :-) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Feb 3, 2023 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh I just got the video of old satellite to load so I could watch it. That is very much what this object looked like but this object’s trajectory was almost straight down and it seemed to be over or finished well before it hit the ground. But that is a very interesting possibility. I will look in that direction to see if I can find anything. Thank you so much! You are always so nice and helpful and smart to think of this! $\endgroup$
    – Tammy Kent
    Feb 4, 2023 at 1:47

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