5
$\begingroup$

Last night (January 21, 2015, possibly 5:30 UTC), from my house in northern California, I saw a moving point of light in the sky, going west to east, crossing about 120 degrees of sky in 5 seconds or so.

It didn't look like my experience of meteors - thicker and slower, and quite bright. I think it survived until it was out of sight entirely, rather than burning out.

Aerospace.org's reentry predictions doesn't show anything for that time.

I've seen ISS and other satellites; this was a lot larger and brighter, and my favorite satellite pass schedule also shows nothing.

Was this more likely a rocket body re-entry, or a large meteor?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Could it be a falling piece of space debris? $\endgroup$ – L.R. Jan 22 '15 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ amsmeteors.org/members/fireball/… ? $\endgroup$ – user21 Jan 26 '15 at 14:20
  • $\begingroup$ Nice resource, but wrong date - mine was Tuesday night (1/20) local, Wednesday morning (1/21) UTC. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Jan 26 '15 at 17:44
2
$\begingroup$

Partial answer only.

120 degrees of sky in 5 seconds or so.

120 degrees in 5 seconds is about 0.42 radians per second. At a distance of 70 km (roughly the distance where an overhead meteor would start to glow visibly) that would be roughly 29 km/sec.

That's a nice number for a meteor.

But it's quite a challenging number for an originally earth-launched object to achieve during reentry unless it's done some planetary flyby's to change it's orbital energy relative to the Sun.

I know it's been almost 6 years now, but if there's a chance that the apparent rate was a lot less than 0.4 radians per second, it would open up the possibility of a reentering artificial object.

If not, I think it is more likely to be a meteor, though reentry of a deep-space bit of space junk is not impossible.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.