The sixth anniversary of this event is almost here. I don't want it to be forgotten.
I saw this meteor from Westport, WA. Here's my illustration of what I
For additional eye witness reports, from CA, OR, WA & BC, see
Most of the reports are from people with little or no prior experience or training on how to report a meteor sighting. Even for professional meteor
trackers, this was a once-in-lifetime event. So it should surprise no one that many of the reports contradict one another. Estimates of visual
magnitude range from -6 (a little brighter than Venus) to -26 (as bright as the Sun). Only one person (in Dunes City, OR) reported hearing a sonic
There is an obvious answer for the fact that it appeared to move more slowly than a normal meteor. I was a long way from the viewer. A normal meteor
moves line a 60 mph baseball 20 feet away; this one moved more like a 60 mph blimp a mile away. When I first saw it, I imagined it being a mile away
and as big as a refrigerator. That just shows my ignorance. Having looked over many of the other reports, I now believe it was somewhere between the
size of an aircraft carrier, 50 miles away, and the size of the Pentagon, 200 miles away. I would have a better idea of size and distance if I had
counted, "... one thousand 6, one thousand 7, etc." as I watched it. The times shown in my illustration could be off by a factor of 3 or 4.
The CMS report says, "The meteor went over a boat 109 miles off shore." If the boat was west of my location, the meteor might have passed within 50
miles to my southwest. If the boat was southwest of me, the meteor might have stayed at least 200 miles away. At closest approach, it appeared to be
about the same angular size as the moon. So its actual size would have been roughly 1/100th of the distance.
Many witnesses reported seeing a terminal flash, which seems to suggest that it was a bolide and exploded in the atmosphere. From my vantage point,
there were three successive red flashes, from my left to my right, about 3/4 to 1 second apart. My view of the horizon below about 7 degrees was
blocked by trees, so I'm not sure if I saw plumes of red-hot steam 10 degrees above the horizon, or if I merely saw red flashes reflected off of tree
branches. The steam might also have been illuminated by the sunset, though my western horizon was already quite dark. My conclusion is the same now as
it was at the time; the meteor skipped three times across the tops of waves on the ocean. I checked buoy data, and the swells were about 8 feet at the
What happened next is anybody's guess. My best guess is that the meteor kept on going. It may have been slowed enough to be suborbital, splashing
down a thousand miles away. Or it may have been so massive that the atmosphere and ocean hardly slowed it at all. It may have gone completely out of
Earth's gravity into an orbit of the sun, or even directly into the sun. The AMS scientists believe it was an "antheleid" meteor, on a trajectory
that would have taking it very close to the sun if it had not had a close encounter with Earth.
Why was it not picked up on radar? I suspect that it was, initially, but when it sank low in the northwest, it dropped into the radar shadow. This
part of the coast is not covered by weather radar. Portland radar has a 45 degree-wide gap to the northwest, and Seattle radar is blocked by the
Olympic mountains. They're expected to have a new dopple radar station near Westport by this September. Somewhere over Oregon, it should have been
detected, but it may have been mistaken for an anomaly; it would have been so bizarre that radar operators would not believe their eyes. Or perhaps it
was too much of an embarrassment, so men in black zapped their memories.
Maybe this object is now included in the list of known asteroids. It probably has a false discovery date sometime in 2006. Officially, there are 1204
"petentially hazardous asteroids". If somebody, here, has the software, maybe you can see if any of them passed Earth on 2005/3/12.
Definition: Potentially Hazardous Asteriods: NEAs whose Minimum Orbit Intersection Distance (MOID) with the Earth is 0.05 AU or less and whose
absolute magnitude (H) is 22.0 or brighter.
Absolute magnitude of 22 is roughly 110 m to 240 m in diameter, depending on shape and albedo. So I'm pretty sure the meteor of 2005/3/12 qualifies.