Distance illusion for fireballs

From: Frank Reed via Seesat-l <seesat-l_at_satobs.org>
Date: 27 Feb 2015 13:09:59 -0800
Is anyone aware of a good online resource discussing the distance illusion for fireballs (and presumably bright satellite re-entries)? They "appear" to be quite close by. Observers often report that "it landed in the next field" or "it looked like it was a half mile away". I would speculate that it's because we're familiar with common fireworks which have a certain brightness to distance correlation which meteor fireballs do not match at all. And of course historically meteors were believed to be weather phenomena (hence the name "meteor") in the same category as lightning and presumably as close. In reality bright meteors are dozens of miles above ground and when seen at low angular elevation, they're often over a hundred miles away. We all know this, but I have found that it is very hard to convince observers who have recently seen a fireball that they're not going to find a meteorite on the ground in their neighbor's backyard. In fact some observers get quite agitated abo!
 ut this issue and cannot accept the idea that the amazingly bright object they saw was over 50 miles away. What I'm hoping to find is some well-written online resource talking about this distance illusion to which I could refer observers looking for confirmation that it's not "just me".

Frank Reed
Conanicut Island USA
Seesat-l mailing list
Received on Fri Feb 27 2015 - 15:10:48 UTC

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