Sunday, May 6, 2000 approximately 9:16 p.m.
Aircraft and Aquarid Meteor Cross Paths Over Connecticut
Bright Meteor Misses Airplane Southwest of Hartford:
Closest Airborne Observation of In-flight Meteor Reported by Pilot
The plane, a Piper Arrow, left Hanscom Field, Massachussets around 8 p.m. enroute to Caldwell Airport, New Jersey with 3 aboard. The five to seven second encounter and observation occurred around 9:15 p.m. at an altitude of 6500 feet, 20 miles southwest of Hartford, Connecticut, just north of Waterbury. The pilot of the craft, R. D. Morningstar (AOPA # 90011644 0), of New York City, estimates the trajectory of the meteor during its most luminous period brought it as close as 150 and no more than 200 feet away as it disappeared
The pilot reports: "It was a brilliant meteor which, due to its close proximity, first appeared just forward of our 9 oclock position. It had the intense luminosity of a noon-day sun and first appeared about 100 feet higher than our cruise altitude, less than 200 feet away and closing on us and passing quickly forward of our aircraft. It descended rapidly, closing with and passing under us while leaving a scorching trail of plasma and white luminous ionized air.
It changed colors quickly from a bright neon white with a brief microburst of ruby red into a variety of intense emerald greens as it decelerated along the the port side passing below the aircraft. It exuded plasma-like vapors and green fumes of various hues. It was easy to distinguish luminous white ionized gases trailing comet-like along its path from greenish vapors waving wildly within intense convection currents which emanated vertically as standing waves.
The trail of vapors was so bright that I could see the charred body of the meteor clearly in stark, black contrast and changing shape from somewhat round to roughly conical. It looked like a small "Black Hole" except that it was radiating energy and light not absorbing them. I had the impression of looking at a nuclear core.
I banked the Arrow slightly to get a final "tail-on" view. It seemed to begin tumbling as it disappeared below the wing into the night. I estimate the size as a bit larger than a soccer ball, dwindling to about half the original size in the first 5 seconds of incandescence and perhaps 3 seconds of a "tunneling effect" as my perspective changed to vertical.
Its trail illuminated the cockpit and canopy of the aircraft in a variety of eerie colors as it blazed across from above our 9 oclock, through our own altitude (level at 6500 feet) at our 10 oclock and to 100 feet below us at 11 oclock as we closed on it.
As our course was exactly 240 degrees, I can state with certainty that its trajectory was due west (270 degrees). The descent angle of its trajectory appeared first as 45 degrees then arching through 52 degrees. Its arc was ballistic, steepening as it slowed to a near vertical final plummet. As it fell it appeared to bore a ringed tunnel through the atmosphere which I observed by banking the plane and craning my neck forward into the windshield to see it disappearing under the Arrows left wing.
I could see the black core tumbling, changing silhouette, glowing red around the black body core and surrounded by a vortex of flaming rings of white and green plasma, smoke and vapors.
The meteor was also seen by the co-pilot, Sagar Samrat, and a Flight Engineer, TechSgt. William Larrea (USAFR).
I discovered on Monday, May 8, 2000, that the meteor was an eta Aquarid meteor formed by cometary debris left by Halleys Comet. I have seen into the heart of Halleys Comet and I am humbled by this priviledge I and my crew received from heaven. God Bless America...