Early on March 11, many Denverites saw a ball of fire streak across the sky.
Subsequent reports suggested that the object was probably an earth-grazer meteorite — and this kind of thing actually happens fairly often in the state.
Evidence aplenty can be found at Cloudbait.com, the fascinating website for Cloudbait Observatory in Guffey, Colorado.
The landing page devoted to fireballs documents dozens of such incidents over the past decade and a half.
Count down the five most recent sightings shared by Cloudbait prior to the latest one, featuring photos, maps and excerpts from each listing's text. (For even more information, click here.) That's followed by a 7News report about last week's fireball.
Number 5: June 23, 2010 Fireball
This extremely bright fireball occurred at 02:49 AM MDT over central Colorado. This meteor may be a member of the June Lyrid shower....
The peak brightness as seen from Cloudbait Observatory was apparent magnitude -13, slightly brighter than a full Moon.
The meteor descended steeply (just 10° from vertical) over the Buffalo Creek area of the mountains between Bailey, CO and Deckers, CO. It first appeared at a height of 104 km, and stopped burning at a height of 41 km. It experienced a violent fragmentation event at a height of 53 km. The meteor had an average speed of 47 km/s (106,000 mph). NEXRAD Doppler radar (KFTG Denver) over the hour following the fireball does not show evidence of a dust cloud.
The meteor radiant was at RA = 289°, dec = +35, in Lyra. This is very close to the June Lyrid (JLY) meteor shower, which has a drift corrected radiant of RA = 284°, dec = +35. That shower is not well characterized, but suggests an initial velocity of 31 km/s, which deviates significantly from the 47 km/s estimate for this event. This may argue against this fireball being a June Lyrid, or it may simply demonstrate that the IMO estimated velocity is incorrect.
The relatively high speed, steep entry angle, high altitude of fragmentation, and probable cometary origin all make it unlikely that any material survived to the ground. In the unlikely event that meteorites were produced, the fall area is extremely rugged and not practically searchable.
This map shows details of the fireball path. The actual flight path was 64 km long, resulting in a 11 km ground path.
Number 4: October 13, 2012 Fireball
This bright fireball occurred at 06:59 PM MDT over central Colorado. The meteor is not associated with any shower. It was widely witnessed in Colorado along the Front Range....
The meteor descended at a shallow angle (about 30 ° from horizontal) Deckers, CO towards Elbert, CO. Its height at peak brightness was about 50 km. The meteor had an average speed of 11 km/s. The very slow speed and shallow angle of descent are typical of meteorite producing events, but the large height and lack of significant fragmentation are not.
This map shows details of the fireball path. The ground path was about 51 km long.
Number 3: October 23, 2013 Fireball
This bright fireball occurred at 9:19 PM MDT over northern Colorado. The meteor is not associated with any shower. It was widely witnessed in Colorado along the Front Range. The meteor duration was 13 seconds....
The meteor descended at a very shallow angle, maintaining a nearly constant height of 45 km. The meteor had an average speed of 15 km/s. The very slow speed and shallow angle of descent are typical of meteorite producing events, but the lack of significant fragmentation is not.
This map shows details of the fireball path. The ground path was about 200 km long. The meteor started near Mead, CO and ended near Yuma, CO. Its radiant was along the border of Hercules and Ophiuchus.
Number 2: September 2, 2014 Fireball (Decay)
This bright fireball occurred at 10:34 PM MDT over New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. From any location along the path the apparent duration was about 30 seconds. The slow speed immediately suggested a decay of space junk, and reviewing the catalog of orbital elements suggested that this could be Cosmos 2495 (NORAD 39732), a Russian spy satellite. Subsequent analysis suggests that this was only one component of the satellite, not the main body....
The body was varying in brightness as it burned up, and that resulted in each camera recording it as a series of individual events rather than one continuous one. The gaps in the path in the composite images here reflect a combination of actual decreases in intensity as well as short periods where the images were being recorded to disk.
This map shows details of the decay path. The beginning an end points as shown only reflect the positions determined from the two Colorado cameras. The actual path began in New Mexico and ended in Wyoming (or possible even South Dakota according to some witness reports)....
The ground speed as the debris was closest to the Cloudbait camera was 7.3 km/s, at a height of 63 km. This is consistent with a reentry from low Earth orbit.
The gray zone just west of the upper end of the path is Dopper radar scatter recorded by the Denver NOAA radar (KFTG) at 23:20:24, created by material from the decay falling into the radar field some 45 minutes after the satellite passed over.
Number 1: October 6, 2014 Fireball
This bright fireball occurred at 4:08 AM MDT over Colorado. The magnitude at Denver was -12, making it as bright as a full Moon....
The radiant is quite close to that of the Orionid meteor shower. This may have been a member of that shower, although its speed appears a little too slow, and its penetration depth a little far. There is no evidence of meteorites or debris in the Doppler weather radar data from the Denver NOAA station.
This map shows the ground path of the fireball.
The ground path is 68 km long, and the atmospheric path is 111 km long. The meteor descended steeply at 38° from vertical, with an average speed of 44 km/s. The meteor was first detected at a height of 123 km, and faded at a height of 35 km. The total duration was 2.5 seconds.
Here's a 7News report about the latest fireball sighting.Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
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