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Earth Science Picture of the Day - Fireball Over the Rockies?

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posted on May, 29 2012 @ 07:10 PM

Photographer: Tony Burton

On this photo, it appears a fireball is ripping through the late afternoon sky. However, what’s observed here has nothing to do with fireballs or meteors; rather it’s a particularly bright cloud. It was taken looking over the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Alberta, Canada, not far from Calgary, just before sunset on April 23, 2012. This tapered lenticular cloud wasn’t really noteworthy at all until the Sun reached a position 22 degrees to the right of it. The cloud then lit up in spectacular fashion. Essentially, it acted as a stretched out sundog. Ice crystals composing it were oriented just right to refract sunlight through their 60-degree prisms. Sunlight enters through the crystals’ side faces and exits through an alternate side face -- inclined 60 degrees to the one it entered.

Source: Earth Science Picture of the Day

I think this is a good example of how misleading some photographs/phenomena can be. To the untrained eye it might easily be mistaken for a fireball or meteor, but it's actually caused by sunlight shining through ice crystals in the cloud as mentioned above.

It also reminds me of "Wales event" which was ruled out as being a fireball/meteor, and was definitely not a sundog or halo.

As I said before, one thing may resemble another to the untrained eye, but have a completely different cause.

Here are some sundogs I photographed myself for comparison. I've posted these on ATS before, and I hope those of you who have seen them will excuse me for the repost.

One thing that I think should be pointed out, is that the EPOD image probably looks closer to the trail or train left by a fireball, rather than the fireball itself.

Here are a couple of examples of dust-trains left by bright fireballs:

This is the trail left by a bright fireball over Greenland on the 26th February 2008 click here and use the archive for more info

The following two images are of the dust trail made by the Taggish Lake fireball/meteorite

For comparison, here are images of actual fireballs, which can vary a bit in appearance, but are usually quite easy to distinguish from trains/trails:

posted on May, 29 2012 @ 07:19 PM
reply to post by FireballStorm

If this were true, then it would also effect clouds at the same 60 degrees, but it does not. first pic.

edit on 29-5-2012 by cloaked4u because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 29 2012 @ 07:23 PM
Its obviously a cloud. Any one that says other wise does not look up.

posted on May, 29 2012 @ 07:24 PM
Pics at 3,4,5 are at different altitudes and thus are not meteors. My observations anyways.

posted on May, 29 2012 @ 07:26 PM
that is very much a cloud being reflected i'm afraid. it's way too wide and cloudlike

posted on May, 29 2012 @ 07:27 PM
Really cool looking!
Lol, up here in the Pacific Northwest we sometimes get overly exited when we see a huge ball of fire in the sky.....Then we're reminded it's just the sun.

posted on May, 29 2012 @ 08:15 PM
apparently people did not read the text of the post?? no, not a fireball or a meteor and the OP tells us all exactly what it is.

posted on May, 29 2012 @ 08:50 PM

Originally posted by cloaked4u
If this were true, then it would also effect clouds at the same 60 degrees, but it does not. first pic.

Actually it wouldn't.

Not all clouds are made up of the same ice crystals, so some will produce halos, whilst others do not. On top of that, certain crystal shapes/orientations are responsible for certain halos/arcs, and must be in the correct part of the sky in relation to both you and the sun in order to see the particular halo/arc. This is why relatively complex displays are not very common.

The sun dogs in this case can be seen either side of the sun.


This page has a diagram showing where the sundogs are.

So, as you can see, only small parts of cloud/the sky will "light up" in some cases. In fact, most halos and arcs that are observed by people are small fragments rather than the "classic example" posted above.

posted on May, 29 2012 @ 10:04 PM

Originally posted by pasiphae
apparently people did not read the text of the post?? no, not a fireball or a meteor and the OP tells us all exactly what it is.

Yes it does seem as though just about all the replies have missed the points I made in the thread.

What gives it away in the EPOD image I posted, is that the photographer was aware of the sun's position in relation to the cloud in the photograph, which matches up with the position at which we would expect to see a sundog.

It just so happens that a "fireball shaped" cloud was in the right place at the right time, and had the right shaped/orientated crystals to reflect sunlight back to the camera. It looks bright since the crystals are more consistently orientated/shaped than they usually are. Most sundogs in my experience are relatively subtle. and brighter displays are less frequent, although still not uncommon.

The colouration is also consistent with a sundog - notice that there is usually a yellow/amber fringe on the inside (side closest to the sun) of most sundogs, and it continues along the inside of the commonly seen 22 degree halo that sometimes surrounds the sun, and the sun dogs (if present) are attached to. It's nearly always there, pointing in the direction of the sun.

Here's a good example of a complex ice halo display that shows a 22 degree halo together with a sun dog and a few other arcs.


The other point I was trying to make was that: the devil is in the detail - without knowing at least a little about the types of phenomena that can result in similar effects to the ones seen here, and paying attention to the details, it's easy to mistake one thing for another.

posted on May, 31 2012 @ 10:07 PM
isnt that what landed in Chile?
took out some building's,,,there's pics and everything,,
right down too the Magnetite.

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