Leonid Fireball

November 15, 2001


Provided by: Paulo Raymundo
Summary authors & editors: Paulo Raymundo

This dramatic photograph showing a -13 magnitude Leonid fireball was taken in Brazil during the Leonid meteor shower in November of 1998. A fireball is defined as any meteor whose brightness exceeds that of Venus at its maximum, a magnitude of about -4. Although the picture shows blue sky, the photo was actually taken at night. The fireball was so bright that the night sky was briefly illuminated like daytime. I woke up at 03:30 local time in the hope of seeing one or two meteors, as we still had 13 hours prior to the predicted peak. To my astonishment, I could count 26 very bright meteors in 50 minutes of observation, with approximately 50% of them being fireballs. Three fireballs flying in a parallel path all the way to the horizon is something that you don't see very often. The fireball in the photo produced shadows and an image of itself reflected on the Atlantic Ocean. The total duration of the luminous flight was around five seconds, and fragmentation occurred two times within one second, briefly illuminating the entire night sky. Unforgettable! Four sonic booms were heard 8 minutes later, and its smoke train persisted for well over 2 minutes to the unaided eye.

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