Unusually slow triple peaking meteor

Forums Meteors Unusually slow triple peaking meteor

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    Andrew Ciavarella

    I just observed what I shall conservatively assume was simply a very special meteor.  I was watching a satellite (Terra, according to Heavens Above) coming up from the south when at 21:46 UT an object travelling many times the speed of your average satellite moved quickly from the north, past Deneb down to near Sabik (eta Oph) during which time (a span of maybe seven or eight seconds) it rose from magnitude maybe +2 to at least three peaks at maybe magnitude 0, returning each time down to maybe +2 before disappearing, I think before being obscured by houses. The changes in magnitude were at least close to being periodic rather than disordered. It left no train I could see and was possibly slightly yellow in colour. I am observing from Taunton, Somerset.

    I’ve never seen an object quite like that before. Could it have been an artificial satellite on an uncontrolled low altitude orbit, explaining the intermediate speed and regular variation in magnitude as it spins?

    I have just checked Heavens Above but can’t see an object fitting it’s trajectory and timing. I also checked the meteor diary but can’t see a shower that could be responsible.

    Any thoughts?

    Alex Pratt

    Hi Andrew,

    Meteor cameras occasionally record long duration, long pathed meteors that exhibit interesting variations in brightness. At the Winchester Weekend I showed an extreme example that was visible for 10 seconds with a ground track of nearly 500 km, recorded by several video cameras.

    Such objects are usually in Earth-grazing paths, skimming the atmosphere and their solar system orbit is such that they are catching up with the Earth, rather than a head-on collision.

    I’ll ask the NEMETODE video meteor network if anyone recorded your object. Multi-station captures can give us a ground track and solar system orbit, then we can evaluate the event.

    Clear skies,


    Andrew Ciavarella

    Hi Alex,

    That would be excellent, thank you. Whatever it ends up being it was certainly unusual!


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