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Photos: See Five Fireballs That Lit Up Colorado Skies

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.


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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts