Fireball Streaks Over Colorado At Dawn

A bright fireball streaked across Colorado early Friday, prompting a number of e-mails to 7News, and calls to authorities and researchers, but no debris was immediately reported.

"It came in from the east, over the plains, and was seen to disappear over the mountains to the west," said Chris Peterson, a meteor researcher with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

The bright light was spotted at abut 6:45 a.m. and was bright enough to be categorized as a fireball, he said.

"Meteors are called fireballs when they are brighter than Venus," said Peterson.

"In general, most of these fireballs burn up quite high in the atmosphere, often 10 to 20 miles above the surface of the Earth," said 7NEWS Chief Meteorologist Mike Nelson. "Few of these objects ever actually reach the ground, even though it often appears that they have hit quite close by."

Meteors are common over Colorado but this one was unusual because it was so bright it could be seen as the sky was getting light, Peterson said.

"Most of these meteors are only about the size of a golfball to maybe a baseball when they hit our atmosphere, less than 1 to 2 percent of the mass typically survives to the ground - if any at all," explains Nelson.

"This one may have been much brighter (than most), more like the brightness of the moon," he said. "Events like that happen every year or so."

Peterson, who operates a Web site on meteors, said he received several witness reports but did not see the meteor himself.

"It was still burning as passed out of view at the lower horizon," wrote one 7News viewer from Dillon. "Normally they come down and flame out long before they get to the horizon."

Peterson said any debris from the meteor would be hard to find.

"You'd just be looking at a handful of rocks," he said. "The rocks would have probably fallen somewhere where there's a lot of other rocks."

Peterson said if any part of the fireball did make it to the ground it might be in northwest Colorado, in the vicinity of Meeker.

The Colorado Geological Survey had a different location and direction for the fireball, and put its landing site along the Front Range.

"The object apparently broke up near the I-25 and C-470 interchange and continued southward toward Castle Rock," a spokesman said. "Residents in this area and points south should be on the lookout for meteorites."

Researcher Chris Peterson's Web site to report or read about meteors is www.cloudbait.com.

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