|Occurred : 4/28/2007 22:06 (Entered as : 04/28/07 22:06)
Reported: 5/10/2007 10:35:56 PM 22:35
Location: Santa Rosa, CA
|Meteor-like object seen while watching an Iridium flare.
According to Heavens Above, a very bright (-8 magnitude) flare from Iridium 49 was visible from my location. It was to be seen in the ENE at 39 degrees elecation, starting at 22:06:06. The distance of the flare center from my location was 2.7 km.
The flare (a reflection of the sun) came right on time, but because my eyes were fixed on a spot a little higher up and a little further north, I missed the beginning of the flare. I did catch it in the corner of my eye and looked directly at it when it was at its brightest. The flare was quite spectacular but it faded quickly. The duration of the flare was no more than 2 to 3 seconds.
Less than 2 seconds after the flare had faded from view, a bright and very fast moving light came from the north, heading south. It flew horizontally less than 5 degrees below where the flare had been. I saw the moving light first in that location and followed it until it was obscured by a tree. The entire event lasted no more than 2 seconds.
The object (light) had the general appearance of a meteor but it looked like no meteor I had ever seen and I have seen my share of them. Besides, meteors do not fly parallel to the ground. The head was about the diameter of three Jupiters (or about 2 arc minutes in angular size. The front was convex and the back was concave. Two very thin "streamers" came off the end points on the concave end. The color of the light was white with a yellowish tint. It remained steady in intensity over the brief duration.
I estimated the angular distance between the location of the Iridium flare (and the appearance of the object) and where the tree blocked the object as about 45 degrees. The object traversed that distance in 1.5 seconds. These facts give the object an angular speed of 30 degrees per second. That it ten times faster than the Space Shuttle flying over CA for a landing in FL, and 60 times faster than the angular speed of the ISS (International Space Station) when it passes overhead.
The brief duration of my observation leaves me with the impression that the object was not at a very high altitude, although I have no facts to support that impression. If the object was as low as 10 000 feet, my calculations show that it flew at a speed of 1.26 miles/second, or more than 4500 miles/hour. If it was at any higher altitude, its speed would have been proportionately faster.
Then there is the element of coincidence that I find difficult to accept. How can two visually spectacular but otherwise totally unrelated events occur in the same patch of sky at essentially the same time. What are the odd?? What did I see. Can someone enlighten me?