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Meteor trajectory

  1. Jan 30, 2004 #1


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    I have always thought that a meteor enters the earth's atmosphere and impacts the ground (if it doesn't disintegrate first) at an angle.

    I saw something a few months ago which has bothered me ever since. I live in an area of farms, cow pastures and wilderness preserves. I was driving one night and noticed a very bright tiny red glowing object falling at a tremendous speed toward the earth, but "straight" down. It was moving so quickly that if I had blinked, I would have missed it. It appeared to have either disintegrated before hitting (as it vanished), or perhaps fell behind trees or a rise that I could not see because of the total darkness.

    I estimate that the object, if it had impacted, would have been less than 1 mile from where I was.

    There were no airplanes in the sky, because I was wondering if something had fallen from one.

    My question - if you were to view a meteor falling from that short of a distance, would it be possible that it would appear to be falling straight down? Or would it still appear to strike at an angle?

    I did a search on meteor trajectory, but all I could find was where high altitude trajectory was used to try to determine the possible impact site of a meteor, or seeing the meteor's trajectory from a significant distance, but nothing about seeing one fall very close.
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  3. Jan 30, 2004 #2


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    Yes, Evo, a meteor certainly can travel straight down. Must've been an interesting sight, whatever it was!

    - Warren
  4. Jan 30, 2004 #3


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    Thanks chroot! I don't know what it was, but I've never seen anything like it, I was very startled, to say the least.
  5. Jan 31, 2004 #4


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    In fact, it is not uncommon for objects to fall nearly strait down in the final part of decent. This may even be the reason why your search only showed studies of high altitude trajectory; because once an object has made impact with the upper atmosphere, it can be slowed down so much that it falls almost strait downafter the first few seconds.

    But its also entirely possible for an object falling at an angle to look like it's falling strait, depending on where one is when observing. In fact, this may be the more likely explanation, since the object you saw was glowing as it fell, right? So, if it was glowing, it was probably in the early part of its decent.

    As Warren already stated, a meteor can fall strait down, but I think that's a fairly rare event (just looking at the odds). Possibly someone else could give better data as to the probabilities involved.
  6. Jan 31, 2004 #5


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    Yes, it was quite bright. It's hard to describe as I remember it appeared to leave a trail, very short duration, so it appeared to be a red streak with the brighter point at the bottom, but not sure if that was just my eyes causing the trailing effect. I'm terrible at describing things.
  7. Apr 4, 2010 #6
    I have a new question on the same subject. I saw a meteor fall, coming at me maybe 8000 feet up or so, it exploded and continued to fall directly over my head at an angle. My question is, how do I estimate where to start looking? I know there is a way to do this with limited info(saw it on meteorite men)but not sure how. Thanks to anyone that can help!
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