Mike's Astro Photos
Feb.14 2011

Daytime Fireball Makes Waves in Philly – 2011-02-14

by , under Comets & Meteors

A daytime fireball seen today from Philadelphia, New York City, New Jersey and other parts of the east coast turned heads and made waves. Over 20 AMS reports were filed within an hour of the fall and almost all of them put the space rock somewhere in the Atlantic.

The image below represents the plotting of the witness reports received by the AMS website in the first hour of this fall. 20+ reports in 1 hour for a daytime fireball, means this was a significant meteor event. The red person icon means the witness saw the meteor traveling left to right. The green icon means the person saw the meteor traveling right to left. The green line is the direction the witness first saw the fireball. The yellow line is where they last saw it. The red line is my ‘quick guess’ at the path of this fireball based on early reports.

Philly Fireball - Febuary 14, 2011 12:40 PM

Philly Fireball - Febuary 14, 2011 12:40 PM

If you witnessed this spectacular event, please leave a comment and tell us what you saw. Also please report the fireball to the AMS.

UPDATE 2/14/2011 – 8:23 PM –  Reports keep coming into the AMS. We have had over 50 already making this a heavily sighted event. I updated the above plot with the latest reports.

Marc Fries thinks he found the meteor on doppler radar. Here’s what he had to say:

I think I may have found it on radar.  The radar data is noisy on all the radars in range, but there is one feature that appears in the 1736 UTC data set of the KDIX radar outside Philly.  It features multiple altitude signals and a Doppler velocity pair (i.e. turbulence).  Location is 40.19498, -73.6645.  If it is a meteorite signature then it is roughly the size of the Grimsby fall.

Two words: Scuba gear.  Or two other words: Fishy Squisher.

The AMS Fireball logs for this event have been published.

Update 2/15/2011 – Radar Images

Marc Fries of Radar Meteorites sent me these 3D radar images of a possible hit of yesterday’s fireball.


KDIX 20110214 1736

KDIX 20110214 1736-SRV

KDIX 20110214 1736-SRV

This is what Marc had to say about the radar data:

This was the product of a quick 15-minute data exam before I had to take my son to his doctor’s appointment.  I’ve looked a bit more and there are a few interesting items in there that I would suggest as search targets if this were over land, but this is the only one that features both multi-sweep returns and observed turbulence.  The first image is a reflectivity image – note how freakin’ noisy the data is.  I don’t know why but all the radars in view are seeing this.  It might be multi-bounce returns from high waves, if there happens to be high winds running at the time.  The second image is the Doppler measurement.  Note the paired towards (green) and away from (red) the radar values.  This indicates that there was turbulence in that region. Both of these features show up in known meteorite falls, although there is currently nothing that is 100% accurate indicator of a meteorite fall.  Still, this feature is roughly in the time and space indicated by your data.

I went looking through the Nexrad files myself to poke around and found this bright return in one of the views. Its pretty close to the red arrow in the trajectory estimate based on witness reports. If this were the meteor (big if), then there would be a possibility of meteorites on Long Island, possibly between Levittown and East Massapequa.

Possible Meteor on Doppler Radar

Update 2/15/2011 – Over 230 observations of the NYC February 14th have been submitted to the AMS website making 2/14/11 NYC/Philly Meteor the 2nd most reported meteor of all time. Second only to The Wisconsin Meteor of 2010. There is still time to beat out WI, which holds the record at 323 witness reports. If you witnessed this meteor, please report it to the AMS.

Update 2/16/2011 – Bill Cooke from NASA’s meteoroid office sent me the results from his analysis of infrasound data which enables him to estimate the total energy and total mass of the meteor. This is what Bill had to say:

We did pick up this event at the Bermuda station, with the back azimuth consistent with the doppler radar as reported by Mark Fries. Energy estimate is ~10 tons TNT, which equates to ~0.9 m diameter rock, with a mass of about 850 kg. A bit lower than my initial guesstimate, but I did not have the infrasound available then.

Update 2/17/2011 00:23 – I received this interesting comment and image from Peter.

I looked at one of the 1736 images from the DIX radar…definately the meteoroid. Lots of echos, some indicating hard targets and also a trail of smoke returns. I have an image, but don’t know how to load it to this site. I would not rule out some iron landing on Long Island.

Possible Meteor Radar Signal Over Long Island

Possible Meteor Radar Signal Over Long Island


44 Comments for this entry

  • Enquiring Minds

    Was it a Meteor or a Visitor? Are more on the Way?

  • Mike Hankey

    most likely a meteor, but you never know :)

    would be great if someone caught it on video.

  • Joe

    I witnessed it from midtown Manhattan. It appeared to be southeast of here at approximately 12:45 pm. It looked a little like a rocket that you would see from fireworks, but fired down from the sky, rather than upwards.

  • Rodney Koodray

    I saw it in Waretown, NJ (Ocean County). It appeared to be falling downward to me. Maybe slightly left to right but mostly downward. I was driving when I saw it for 2-3 seconds. I posted it on Facebook right away but really didn’t know where or who else to tell.

  • Chris S

    Amazing, a round burst of light very similar to a transformer explosion I witnessed a few years back, followed by the meteor rocketing down, now I live in Staten Island and from my position I checked google maps and it was moving NE from where I stood, I posted it on FB and my friend had seen it from Brooklyn, now Im hearing Connecticut down to Philly?! Wow. I’ve seen many meteors at night and I knew this had to be big because I’ve never seen a meteor like it.

  • Jason

    I saw this about 12:30 to 12:45 in Cherry Hill NJ. I was bright green. A brilliant color and it appeared to crash straight down. I looked like it was close, maybe a few miles away but it’s hard to tell when it’s something falling from the sky. I only saw it for about 1 to 2 seconds. I emailed my wife when I got back from to work and just saw the news report that others reported it as well.

  • jbob

    It was an amazing meteor to see. It was extremely bright and from my stand point it came out from behind clouds. Thankfully I had someone with me in the car because I thought I was seeing things.

  • Mich Latham

    It reminds me of that song written 10 years ago when the last meteor was sighted during the day…

  • Seth

    I reported seeing this around 12:35est. I was sitting at a red light on rte 2 (bald hill road) west warwick RI. It was amazing, bright silver burst and then a long silver white tail as it moved across the sky! Lasted about 2-3 seconds.

  • Allie

    Saw a BRIGHT flash of light in Belmar, NJ today, traveling right to left when looking directly east out over the ocean. Amazing sight. It seemed to be green, a little bit of pink, and bright white.

  • MJG

    Saw it coming down 1-76 heading east out of Reading PA. Large ball…white. Thought it was a meteor. Appeared closer than what your reporting.

  • Icarus

    It was a green ligth to white,very intense light with a short smoke-like tail. The sighting was super short from my position 1 sec or less. Super fast, disappearing w/o any trace ( well it was a shiny day). Looks that did not impact but disappeared in the air instead, but it was too fast that I can not tell. Def. as bright as the one in Salt Lake from 2009.

  • Steven

    I actually saw it! It was the most amazing thing that I have ever seen. It had a blue pulsing head and a huge white tail. It was as bright as the sun. I saw it in Horsham PA around 12:40 PM.

  • Jeanne Garbarino

    I saw it! I was looking over the east river from Manhattan and I saw it as it passed over Roosevelt Island! It was cool and no one believed me!

  • grahame russell

    i quote seth, above: “bright silver burst and then a long silver white tail as it moved across the sky! Lasted about 2-3 seconds.” that is what i saw from western connecticut, 20 miles west of Hartford, driving (looking) due south. nice …

  • Emily

    I was driving south on rt.35 in Middletown NJ at 12:45 pm, when I saw a vertical shiny golden streak in the southern sky. Lasted about one second. Very bright.

  • Nicole

    I was at the Barnegat Lighthouse in NJ and saw this falling from the sky right above the ocean. It was as bright as the sun and really colorful. Couldn’t believe it…it was amazing!!

  • Elizabeth Eshbach

    my daughter saw the meteor at 12:30-12:45 at lunch time looking out the two story glass window of her lunchroom. It was bright red ball with flames in the back. It lasted about 1-2 seconds. Just west of Reading, PA (Sinking Spring).

  • Steve

    Saw it in NJ at approx 12:30 noon. Coolest thing I ever saw. It was a bright light shooting from east to west. It was so bright and fast…for a moment I was waiting for an explosion. Of course, everybody at work thought I was crazy.

  • jeremy leary

    I saw this today right around 12:40 I know the time because I called my wife right after I saw it. I have never seen anything like this especially during the daytime. At first I thought a jet was crashing or something just because when it first appeared it seemed like an explosion but the color was a bright bluish white- it started off slow (relatively speaking) then increased in speed. I have seen plenty of shooting stars but this was spectacular. I witnessed this in Windsor NJ I have been asking everyone I see if anyone else saw it and no one has yet- I have also been googling it and this is the first place I found where other people saw it as well. I was beginning to think I was crazy.

  • Stephanie

    My post from earlier read: “Old Bridge, NJ Driving on Route 34- Saw a circular meteor appear with long red flare ending- it was there for a seconds and gone instantly-it glided like a shooting star -1pm in the afternoon- red as can be !!”

  • Kathy Coyle

    I saw this today about 12:35 in center city Philadelphia, facing east towards the Delaware River.
    It was extremely bright gold/white with a long smoky tail. Biggest & brightest meteorite I have ever seen!

  • Daniel Kincaid

    I saw it at around 12:35pm I was headed east on RT 280 near The Oranges. Bright green ball shape with fire like tail. It was going North. I saw it for a good 3-4 seconds. I know others saw it because they hits their brakes to slow down. Amazing! Right place right time I guess.

  • Lisa

    My husband and I saw it driving through the backroads of the Oley area (just outside Reading, PA)… we both saw it fall straight down from the sky… it looked much closer, but know that sky views can be deceiving. To both of us, it looked like the ending of a firework burst, without the upward movement, just downward… reddish orange in color, the ‘head’ of it glowed brighter as it fell with a whitish/yellow tail, then it disappeared. It lasted mere seconds and happened about 12:40pm 2/14/11… I was glad we both saw it; I might have questioned my eyesight otherwise.

  • Steve Rulli

    I was traveling north on 295 in the Haddon Heights area (exit 29)and saw it just to the left of the highway coming down in almost a vertical direction. It looked very close from my perspective

  • Janet Moretti

    I saw a fireball heading east on Church Road in Mount Laurel. It was the size of a melon. It glowed white with an orange rim and a blue outer most rim.

  • tom

    The USA shot down another one in the UFO war they started in 2004.

  • Mare

    My husband and I were in the car, coming from Hockessin toward Wilmington on Rt. 48 yesterday before 1p when against a clear blue sky we saw a bright burst of rainbow color toward the northeast; a gorgeous streaking ball of light that appeared to come straight down toward the ground with a slight tail effect. It almost looked like a firework in reverse. We couldn’t find anyone else in our area that had seen it at that time, but then I was at work today and overheard that people in DE spotted a meteor. I knew that was what we had seen. Neat.

  • Gracie R.

    I was driving with my husband and daughter and i was going to FDR South. I Saw the flash a light , the light was arched and on the bottom was a fireball it lasted for a sec. And my daughter and husband thought i was seeing things. My husband thought i was “Nuts” and he said i seeing “BIRDS”. So Happy you reported it last night , Now he owes me 10,000 k… P.S. i am also 70 and my husband is 73.

  • R

    I spotted the “fireball” around lunch time yesterday from 20+ floor looking out from a 6th Ave, building facing east in midtown Manhattan. It looked like something very similar fireworks come down out of the sky except it was singular. It appeared to fall downward from right to left.

  • Hugh

    I saw it approx 12:37 PM on 2/14. I was in a parking lot in Oaks PA right off of PA route 422.I I saw a orange ball going downward with a white tail.

  • CM

    I saw event yesterday from south plainfield NJ. Approx 12:40. Bright white with flamey tail item appeared roughly south east and appeared to be almost straight down. Much bigger than “shooting stars” that i have seen, this apeared to come down not move acroos sky and i looked for smoke from impact, but there was none.

  • Sharon

    Around 12:40 i saw it too in Williamstown N.J. We were at a redlight and i just saw this britht light falling from the sky. It looked like it was close to us. I yelled to my freind ‘Did you just see that shooting star’ and she said ‘no’. She thoughts i was crazy. Then i thought about it:It was to bright to be a shooting star. Just like someone else said it was bright orange with a white tail.

  • Krissa

    Wow – I am so glad I found this – I saw what Jason saw in Cherry Hill, facing east. It was the brightest thing Ive ever observed – and for daytime!? I was expecting to hear, even feel, the impact. Will be waiting to hear. Most everyone thought I was crazy!

  • Clinton Ortiz

    There shalll be strange signs in the Sun, moon, and stars; waves roaring, men’s hearts failing for what is coming upon the earth. Wormwood, a star as large as a mountain, burning as it were a lamp, shall strike.

    -The Bible

  • carol

    I was driving on rte. 495 to the Lincoln Tunnel when I noticed a light appear mid horizon. Electric light green flowing into brilliant silvery white. It appeared to move NE until it dropped out of my field of vision. I thought it went into the river it seemed so close. I noted it at 12:35pm. Amazing- I immediately thought of Superman being sent to Earth from Krypton.

  • Howard

    The image with the three red marks asking is this it appears to me to be planes lining up to land at JFK

  • John Scollin

    I spotted this in bridgeport connecticut at around 12:40 in the afternoon

  • jon

    I was outside of Gap, Pa. on business Rt.30 heading east going up a steep grade. While looking for a sign on the right, I saw a very bright light which appeared to be moving at a super sonic speed. It lasted all of 2 seconds and appeared to be an upside down cotter pin that was a brilliant bluish white heading towards Earth.

  • WeatherMatrix Blog

    Not sure about those radar images — there are lots of specks on the radar at night — because the dish turns slowly about a dozen times over 6 minutes at different levels, seems unlikely it would catch the meteor itself. It has been documented to catch the smoke trail behind meteorites. http://ow.ly/3XHCs

  • Peter

    I looked at one of the 1736 images from the DIX radar…definately the meteoroid. Lots of echos, some indicating hard targets and also a trail of smoke returns. I have an image, but don’t know how to load it to this site. I would not rule out some iron landing on Long Island.

    This may work


  • s. a.

    My husband and 3 kids and I live in kansas out in the country we saw a huge streak of green going downward in the sky with a blue evaporation of some sort. It looked like it was low enough to be a plane yet not high to be a shooting star. It lasted about 15 seconds before it disappeared. Did any one else see this

  • Marie Baker

    I was one of the lucky ones to have seen it from Middletown NY. A fireball brighter than the moon with a trail of glowing blue/green streaming behind and “sparklers” of rainbow colors bouncing all around it. I was driving and just starting to descend a hill when it came into my unobstructed view. I first noticed it just above the treeline, traveling E to W in an arced motion. It lasted less than 10 secs but it was long enough for me to think … WTH? Fireworks for Valentine’s Day??, A falling star??? A Meteor???? Then it appeared to have landed about 200 ft in front of me. I was expecting to be blown away.

  • Rich

    I was in Westbury NY. Nassau County LI, it definitely landed in the ocean. I saw it on my lunchbreak, although I only saw it for about 2 seconds before it disappeared into trees on the horizon. White/blue bright ball with a white tail. No smoke, I first thought it was from a plane. It was impossible to judge how far away it was.

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