Beijing fireball
The search continues for a full moon-bright meteoroid likely to have landed in west suburban Beijing on Wednesday in what astronomers said could lead to one of the biggest discoveries in Beijing this year.

Witnesses in Beijing and nearby Tianjin recorded a clearly visible fireball-like meteorite descending near the west horizon of Beijing at 10:23 pm on Dec 16.

The surveillance camera from the planetarium taped a 2-second footage of the fall phenomena, in which a bright shooting star, carrying a visible tail, flew towards the east and exploded into greater brightness before disappearing on the horizon.

"We were at Jianxiangqiao Bridge when driving west-bound on the North Fourth Ring Road when we caught sight of the brightness moving to the southeast," Li Xin, a researcher with the Beijing Planetarium, wrote on the organization's online forum before posting the surveillance video right after the witness.

"The brightness of the meteor was close to a full moon," he wrote. "If this meteorite can be recovered, it can become one of the biggest discoveries in Beijing."

Other residents in Beijing also reported witnesses of the "fireball-like meteorite" to the planetarium.

"Wow, what was it that I saw," wrote one Beijing-based blogger on the popular portal, only 12 minutes after the fall phenomena occurred.

"I was at Chaoyangmen on the East Second Ring Road and I just saw a bright green ball of light moving to the south. There were no noises and everything seemed fine outside my car," wrote the blogger, who named himself "awkward uncle".

But the online witnesses did not draw much serious attention before verified by the astronomy authority.

"You were really awkward, dear uncle. That was Optimus Prime," a comment from reader "XY" followed. Other readers exclaimed the entire witness sounded "very Sci-Fi".

Astronomers from the Beijing Planetarium said the witness was telling the truth and researchers said they have already reported the witness to the International Meteor Organization as the latest visual meteor on Earth.

Li also estimated the location of the landing to be about 40 km west of downtown Beijing, while Zhu Jin, director of the planetarium, put the estimation at between 100 and 200 km from central Beijing. The Baihuashan mountainous area at the border of Beijing and nearby Hebei province was noted to be the most possible location, Zhu said.

Scientists have launched a campaign online and through TV to collect witnesses and accounts. Residents in west Beijing are encouraged to contribute.

But it was unknown what the debris of the meteor would be like, experts said. If recovered, the discovery will be viewed as a "fall" according to international practice.

The Beijing Planetarium has never collected any meteorite from past meteors in Beijing.

As of mid-2006, there have been approximately 1,050 witnessed falls producing specimens for the world's collections.

"The witness was lucky. No techniques were involved whatsoever," Li said.