UPDATE: This meteor appears to be the one that drilled through the roof of a Lorton, Va. dental office Monday evening. Read more here.
The Tuesday morning mail contained the following report from a reader in Reisterstown, Md. He and his wife spotted a bright meteor to their south after sunset on Monday evening. The crescent moon and planet Jupiter were visible in the southwest.
Here's his report, including a meteor photo he says resembles what he saw. If anyone else spotted the same object, please leave us a comment and describe what you saw. Please include the time, your location, the direction you were looking, the direction of flight, the object's approximate height above the horizon (in degrees, if possible; zero degrees is on the horizon, 90 degrees is straight up) and anything else you can remember.
"My wife and I believe we saw a fireball meteor yesterday. It was at 5:38 Monday afternoon, January 18. It was twilight and only the moon and one planet were visible in the sky, which was still blue and not yet black. For about 3 to 5 seconds, the meteor descended down in the south, looking from Reisterstown, MD towards the BWI area.
When I saw it, I said to my wife, "Look there!" And she quickly turned her head and was able to see the trail. "What was that?" she said, astonished. Usually, meteor don't last that long.
"We weren't sure if it was some space debris, a meteor or a firework. The smoke trail last about four minutes.
"I have enclosed a picture I found on the web that looks like what I saw. I too saw a brilliant bluish area that shed off secondary streams of light. Again, this is not my picture, but represents what I saw.
"There was no sonic boom as in your report from a year or two ago. Have other people seen this? - Henry Simoni-Wastila"
Thanks, Henry. I don't think this was space debris re-entering the atmosphere. It seems to have been moving too rapidly. And while it may have appeared to be descending over BWI, the meteor was probably much higher and much farther from the observer than it seemed. So it's likely observers in Southern Maryland, Virginia and perhaps even North Carolina saw the same thing, slightly higher above the horizon.
So, if you saw this thing, drop us a comment. Thanks.
UPDATE: Here (right) is a photo of the smoke trail left by last night's meteor, used with permission from the photographer, Anthony Nugnes, of Silver Spring, Md. (I increased the contrast a bit to make the trail more clearly visible.) He writes:
"I consulted with William E. Smith (astronomy buff) of Bowie, MD and he stated the following: 'Good shots of the trail. Looks like you've witnessed a bolide, a possible member of The Coma Berenicid meteor shower which peaks tonight. (1/18)'"
Property owners in Maryland with security cameras that face toward the west or southwest may want to check their tapes to see if they caught the fireball. If so, send the video files along and I'll post them. Thanks.
Here's another photo of the meteor's smoke trail. The snake-line shape is due to high-altitude winds blowing the smoke around.
It was taken by Tom Cinelli's wife (Tom, you need to give us her name!). He said it was taken "using a zoom lens from our home in Lothian, Md. at about 5:40 p.m. It was traveling west at say about 35 degrees above the horizon. Any idea of where it landed, or did it burn up?" Tom asks.
No, but readers in southern Virginia say they saw it to their northeast, which - since most observers in Maryland, Pa., and NJ put it to their southwest -would place the meteor somewhere in northern Viginia, I would guess.
Most of these things burn up as they come down, and nothing is ever found. But clearly not all.