Wednesday 3 July 2019

Double fireball over Florida thought to be re-entry of Chinese satellite launcher.

The American Meteor Society has received reports of a bright fireball meteor being seen over the southern New Jersey, slightly after 2.15 am local time (slightly after 6.15 am GMT) on Wednesday 3 July 2019. The meteor passed over the central part of the state from west to east, with many witnesses reporting a two-part event, with a faint meteor and a much brighter one. A fireball is defined as a meteor (shooting star) brighter than the planet Venus. These are typically caused by pieces of rock burning up in the atmosphere, but on this occasion it is thought to be the result of man-made space-junk burning up on re-entry. 

Double meteor seen over Florida on 3 July 2019. 850WFTL.

The debris is thought likely to have come from CZ-3B R/B, a Chinese Long March rocket launched to deploy a satellite in 2015. The rocket has been orbiting the Earth 6.17 times a day since that time, travelling from west to east, and coming to within 156 km of the Earth at the closest point on its orbit, frequently passing over Florida.

The orbit of CZ-3B R/B. Heavens Above.

Witness reports can help astronomers to understand these events. If you witness a fireball-type meteor over the US you can report it to the American Meteor Society here
Map showing areas where sightings of the meteor were reported, and the apparent path of the object (blue arrow). American Meteor Society.

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