Originally posted by Tardacus
Is it normal for meteors to travel such a long distance at such a low altitude and low speed, before hitting the ground?
Firstly, speed, distance, and especially altitude are extremely difficult to estimate accurately in cases like this. It's well documented that people
often under estimate the distance/altitude of bright meteors (see the thread: How good are
we at estimating the distance and altitude of UFOs?
Most meteors become visible at altitudes of around 100 km, and in extreme cases can stay luminous down to around 20 km. At these kinds of altitudes a
bright meteor can easily be seen for 100's of miles in every direction.
Secondly, yes this is normal. Meteors can be very slow, and although angle of entry does not affect this (as a previous poster to this thread
claimed), perspective (the angle between the meteor's direction of travel, and an observer) can make a meteor appear
to be traveling slower
than it actually is. In extreme cases (eg a meteor heading directly towards an observer) a meteor will not appear to move in the sky at all, which is
why it's called a "point-meteor"
In this case, we are seeing exactly the opposite, which is known as an Earth Grazing
(scroll down to the bottom of the page):
These grazers can traverse unusually long paths through the atmosphere because they are skimming horizontally through less dense portions of air ,
rather than penetrating downward to denser layers. These meteors are quite spectacular to observe and can occasionally cover more than 100 degrees of
arc for an observer below.
See the following web pages for more info on the subject:
How Fast is "Swift": An Exploration of Meteor Angular Speeds
The Meteor Meniscus: Meteor Distance verses Meteor Zenith Angle
Thirdly, not all meteoroids that enter the atmosphere make it down to the ground, even when they are quite big/bright. In this case however, it may be
possible since there is at least one report of booms/rumbling being heard, witch is usually a good indicator that something made it down low enough to
survive. Unfortunately, the fact that this was an earthgrazer makes it less likely that where any meteorites may have landed can be pinpointed, even
if they did fall over ground.
Fourthly, it's still not certain that this was a natural meteor - it may have been a satellite/junk reentry, which can easily resemble a slow/long
meteor that is breaking up. I personally think either is a possibility at this stage, although I think a natural meteor is a slightly better
possibility at this stage.