Denver Post

Fireballs streak across sky for second night in a row
By Will Ryan
Special to The Denver Post

Tuesday, October 08, 2002 - For the second night in a row - and at almost
the exact same time - people across Colorado state saw a streaking fireball
shoot across the sky early Monday night.
Experts said the brilliant object was probably another meteor burning up in
the atmosphere.
Eyewitnesses described the Monday fireball as having similar brightness and
size as the object seen across the Western United States on Sunday. However,
reports said Monday night's fireball was moving in the opposite direction -
west to east - compared with the one Sunday.
Around 7:15 p.m., law-enforcement dispatchers began receiving reports from
most corners of the state, including Grand Junction, Durango, Boulder and
Douglas County.
"It was definitely a fireball," said Bryan Golding, who was driving south on
Broadway in Highlands Ranch. "It was white in front with orange around it,
with little pieces coming off it."
It was 1 to 2 inches in diameter as viewed through his windshield, Golding
said, with about a 3-inch long tail.
Karen Byrd, staff duty officer with the Federal Aviation Administration in
Seattle, said she had received reports of meteor showers.
Firestone resident Ginny Shaw was driving east of Longmont when she saw a
"big ball of fire" streaking eastward across the sky from the direction of
the mountains.
"To me it looked like it dropped down, in my mind, in the northeast Denver
area,' she said.
Robert Stencel, a professor of astronomy at the University of Denver, said
two similar events on consecutive nights was not necessarily unusual,
especially for this time of year.
"We are into about a six-week period where two highly prominent meteor
showers are occurring," Stencel said.
Two annual meteor showers - the Giacobinids, which peak yearly in
mid-October, and the Leonids of November - increase the probability of
meteors striking Earth's atmosphere, he said. Stencel said asteroids, which
have passed relatively close to Earth in the past year, could have smaller
debris around them.
"If one large chunk flies by, it's possible that smaller pieces are
traveling in similar orbits," Stencel said. "There might be a modest armada
of boulders around it."
Stencel also noted that the asteroid named 1997 XF11, which will pass within
5.9 million miles of Earth later this month, and peripheral debris
associated with it could also be responsible for the recent meteors.
While the appearance of such prominent fireballs two nights in a row is
interesting, Stencel said, it is not an extraordinary event.
"It's probably a 1 or 2 on a scale of 10," he said.