Fri, 12 Dec 2008 00:35 UTC
The grandmother and grandson saw a bright white ball with a multi-colored vapor tail trailing behind it shoot across the sky from south to north. Zach says it disappeared over the horizon; Marcia thought it dropped into the lake.
It turns out they weren't the only ones to spot the fireball.
After reading a notice about the sighting in last week's issue of the Budgeteer, Susie Johnson said she saw the same thing, only from a different location (she lives in Duluth Heights).
"I was looking out my window to the east when I saw [the ball] go by," she said. "It seemed so low, I thought for sure it was going to crash to the ground. In my estimation at that time, I thought it would hit somewhere around the Arrowhead Road area.
"I'm glad to know others saw it too, it was quite a sight! It was beautiful, however, a little scary, too, thinking it was going to crash into something."
Wally Jordan, a railroad engineer, was working at Rice's point that night, moving railroad cars with a co-worker.
"In all my years, it has to be the brightest falling star I ever saw," Jordan said. "At first I thought, Wow, somebody's got a lot of money to be setting off fireworks like that."
These Northlanders weren't the only ones to spot the impressive meteor.
According to the Fireball Sightings Log on the American Meteor Society Web site there were 19 different reports of a fireball between 8:50 and 9 p.m. that night. Nine of those reports were filed from Wisconsin, including folks in Iron River and Hayward, and six were from Minnesota. People in Indiana and Illinois also reported seeing a fireball with a white head and green tail, or green and blue streaks.
Observers on the AMS site ranked the magnitude of the Nov. 26 fireball between -13 and -27, with -13 equivalent to the light produced by the full moon, and -27 equivalent to the light produced by the sun.
Six days before that, a massive fireball lit up the Canadian sky - that meteor's image was even captured by a police officer's dash camera.
It seems likely that the fireball sightings have something to do with the Geminid meteor showers. According to analysis of meteor video data by Sirko Molau cited on transient sky.wordpress.com, the Geminids are active for almost an entire month, between the dates of Nov. 23 and Dec. 21.
"It was something I'll never forget," Jordan said. "The tail, it was so bright, it lit up the whole sky. It lasted for awhile, too."
Keep your eyes on the sky
This weekend will see one of the year's better meteor showers: the Geminids. According to MeteorShowersOnline.com, this year's Geminid meteor shower is supposed to peak Dec. 13 and 14. This year, because of the full moon, people will likely spot fewer meteors, but experts estimate folks could still see between 10 and 30 per hour. If you are willing to brave the cold, the Geminids are one of the easier showers to observe because you don't have to stay up until the wee hours of the morning to see them. The Geminids can be seen in good numbers as early as 10 p.m. and are great anytime after midnight. The Geminids will appear to radiate from the constellation of Gemini near the bright star Castor.