Fireball Over Mexico City - Space Junk? [Sunset plane and contrail]

derrick06

Active Member
My buddy from the UK sent me this one a few years back and I never thought of putting it on here until recently. He is an amateur astronomer and comes across a lot of videos of abnormal sites in the sky. He believes this to be a video of some space junk falling over Mexico and being illuminated by the sun set. It sure appears to be that especially considering it's slow rate of speed. Any tips from those on here that are well versed in identifying materials burning up in earths atmosphere? What tips do you have for the average person on identifying space junk and/or other abnormal sites. Here is the link to the video from "The Telegraph" a UK news source. What causes the front to be quite reddish? High heat? The quality of the video is thankfully not too bad here.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/new...ufo/8619831/Fiery-UFO-filmed-over-Mexico.html
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Judging by the size, position, time of day, and speed, I'd say it's a short sunlit contrail, with the plane also reflecting the set sun from over the horizon, the direct reflection giving a large flare. The shape of the contrail looks like it's from a 747


747 contrails for comparison. Note the distinctive twist.


And here's an example of how even a small area of reflection can give quite a big flare:



747 contrail with a comet in the background!
http://sagansense.tumblr.com/image/46129422515




Imagine this, but with the sun reflecting off the plane into your eyes:


See also:
http://contrailscience.com/short-sunlit-contrails-look-like-ufos/
 
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cosmic

Senior Member
Any tips from those on here that are well versed in identifying materials burning up in earths atmosphere? What tips do you have for the average person on identifying space junk and/or other abnormal sites.
You can check a current or past event against a list of satellite reentries. With increasing frequency, people are mistaking sunlight reflected off contrails at sunrise/sunset for "space junk" -- but chances are they've never actually witnessed a reentry. Satellites, rocket bodies and the like will commonly fragment in the atmosphere, as in the following clips:

Meridian 5 satellite:


Cygnus cargo module:


JAXA's Hayabusa spacecraft:



Objects from orbit streaking through the atmosphere generally don't leave behind persistent, luminous trails which barely change in appearance for minutes on end. In several recent cases of mistaken identity that's where inexperienced observers have been confused by illuminated contrails (see these threads on recent "sightings" from Oregon and Maine).

While there appear to be growing numbers of reentries per year, the odds of them being visible from populated areas during favorable observing conditions are pretty slim. In 2013, for example, there were 57 reentry events, but only five were actually witnessed from the ground.

Casual skygazers are probably unaware that orbital debris is actively tracked, and reentries are predicted well in advance -- if a visible event is expected, it's usually written about in the press several days ahead of time. You don't just show up with a camera or smartphone and film an object nobody knew was coming.
 
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derrick06

Active Member
Cheers for the information everyone! So it appears to be in fact an aircraft's contrails being illuminated and the bright red seems to be reflection of light off of the plane itself then? As Mick stated perhaps it's the zoom that prevents the details expected from the contrails form being visible.
 

cosmic

Senior Member
For additional reference:

A couple of new videos captured a daytime meteor over Canada. These clearly illustrate how quickly meteors zip across the sky, traveling at tens of thousands of kilometers per hour.



This fireball was estimated to be 50-100cm.
 

derrick06

Active Member
Wow those are fantastic sights. Definitely a different sight from your average nighttime meteor shower.
 

cosmic

Senior Member
Definitely a different sight from your average nighttime meteor shower.
Fireballs like that don't stand out as much during daylight hours but otherwise appear the same.


Meteors on average are typically very small, from grain-of-sand size to small pebbles, generally less than a gram. The ones in these videos are just more substantial.

The main reason I'd posted the daylight footage is to show their appearance is markedly different from aircraft & contrails. As was the case in the articles about the "sighting" from Spain or even the Telegraph story in the opening post, people who confuse aircraft with meteors probably haven't spent much (if any) time observing the latter.
 

derrick06

Active Member
Fireballs like that don't stand out as much during daylight hours but otherwise appear the same.


Meteors on average are typically very small, from grain-of-sand size to small pebbles, generally less than a gram. The ones in these videos are just more substantial.

The main reason I'd posted the daylight footage is to show their appearance is markedly different from aircraft & contrails. As was the case in the articles about the "sighting" from Spain or even the Telegraph story in the opening post, people who confuse aircraft with meteors probably haven't spent much (if any) time observing the latter.

Wow Cosmic that footage was stunning! So that meteor finished disintegrating? Did it explode? Was the green light just caused by the clouds? Definitely an abnormal but beautiful sight to see. Too bad many people are so "cosmophobic" these days haha
 

Jason

Senior Member
For additional reference:

A couple of new videos captured a daytime meteor over Canada. These clearly illustrate how quickly meteors zip across the sky, traveling at tens of thousands of kilometers per hour.



This fireball was estimated to be 50-100cm.
OT; Is there a region on planet earth where they are more likely to see bolides? I was just thinking that it seems like the northern hemisphere seems to be more prone to meteors and such.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
OT; Is there a region on planet earth where they are more likely to see bolides? I was just thinking that it seems like the northern hemisphere seems to be more prone to meteors and such.
Most of Earth's habitable land and population (around 90%) is in the north. So they are just much more likely to be seen in the north.

 

WeedWhacker

Senior Member
Is there a region on planet earth where they are more likely to see bolides?
As mentioned above, the actual sighting of a "bolide" tends to be limited....and even the term still under discussion, as to what it means.

The term "bolide" (still in contention for some people) will occur where the geography...that is, the continents where Humans reside....are most favorable for viewing such events. And of course, given that there might be "line-of-sight" issues, various times of day, etc.

Not to imply that when not seen by Human eyes (to relate the tale later), does not mean it has not occurred.

My several years of "de-bunking" Apollo deniers (for example) have involved investigating their multiple claims that Apollo Moon samples are merely meteorites acquired in Antarctica. Convenient, for those deniers. But, scientifically inaccurate, and easy to refute.
 

WeedWhacker

Senior Member
I just wanted to add that the term "space junk" is rather broad. The gist of this thread OP is that which is viewed, from the ground...and whether it is simply an illuminated airplane contrail, or an actual entry of something that is being "burned up" due to atmospheric friction, at VERY high velocities.

These "somethings" can be man-made, or extraterrestrial in origin ("extraterrestrial", but generally not "extra-Solar").

The distinction can seem odd....but also, "Space Junk" (more correctly, Space "Debris") in other terms can refer to the multitude of waste that is in Near-Earth Orbit, after these many decades of various space programs, and can pose threats to man-made space vehicles, if encountered.

These pieces of "Debris" can occasionally de-orbit....but usually pose no threat to the surface, unless especially large in mass....in which case, usually they inspire media attention.
 

Jason

Senior Member
Most of Earth's habitable land and population (around 90%) is in the north. So they are just much more likely to be seen in the north.

 

cosmic

Senior Member
So that meteor finished disintegrating? Did it explode?
It looks like it's disintegrated by the end. Hard to be sure from the video.

Was the green light just caused by the clouds?
Maybe due to composition of the object (or maybe not).

Definitely an abnormal but beautiful sight to see. Too bad many people are so "cosmophobic" these days haha
On average, one object that size enters Earth's atmosphere every day, so it's quite normal.
 

cosmic

Senior Member
OT; Is there a region on planet earth where they are more likely to see bolides? I was just thinking that it seems like the northern hemisphere seems to be more prone to meteors and such.
The northern hemisphere on average gets a better deal than the southern hemisphere -- but many bolides are stragglers, not associated with any particular shower. I'd imagine the graphic Mick posted still applies.

What you quoted in #15 appears to reference sky surveys and missions to catalog asteroids and near earth objects (i.e. objects larger than 140m). That's really not applicable to fireballs/bolides since on average they're the size of a basketball and too small and distant to be detected in advance.
 

WeedWhacker

Senior Member
I've often wondered how much variation exists in casual usage. To me, "space junk" is synonymous with orbital debris attributed to human activities.
Yes, my interpretation has always been "space junk" as a phrase is attributed to man-made orbital debris, that eventually de-orbits. (OR, that can remain for hundreds of years in orbit.....various orbital planes and inclinations....and thus a hazard to always be considered for all future spacecraft launches).
 

Jason

Senior Member
What you quoted in #15 appears to reference sky surveys and missions to catalog asteroids and near earth objects (i.e. objects larger than 140m). That's really not applicable to fireballs/bolides since on average they're the size of a basketball and too small and distant to be detected in advance.
You're right Cosmic, and I didn't put the whole quote in because I lost the page after copying it and was too lazy. But due to the ecliptic where most of the "stuff" in our solar system lie, and our axial tilt we see more asteroids or what have you in the northern hemisphere.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
You're right Cosmic, and I didn't put the whole quote in because I lost the page after copying it and was too lazy. But due to the ecliptic where most of the "stuff" in our solar system lie, and our axial tilt we see more asteroids or what have you in the northern hemisphere.
The axial tilt is not really anything to do with it. There are more meteor showers in the north, but that's more coincidence than anything, it's to do with the way the Earth intersects the paths of comets - which can be significantly out of the ecliptic. There are only a few major meteor showers, and there just happen to be more bigger showers in the north right now.
http://ase.tufts.edu/cosmos/view_picture.asp?id=1305

But, AFAIK, larger bolides are basically random, and can hit anywhere.
 

derrick06

Active Member
It looks like it's disintegrated by the end. Hard to be sure from the video.



Maybe due to composition of the object (or maybe not).



On average, one object that size enters Earth's atmosphere every day, so it's quite normal.
Thank you ^_^ Definitely learned something there!
 

ricl

New Member
This is the same as the YouTube video from Jul 6, 2011


The most likely explanation is that, as the Sun is setting to the right hand side of the video, what is being observed is nothing more than sun light being reflected off the airplane (centre reddish dot and that the plumes to each side are the (very short) contrails from the engines.
 
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