Bright fireball 3 June 2004, 09:40:12 UTC,
over Washington state, USA

last updated: 6 june 2004

On June 3rd at 02:40:12 Pacific Daylight Time (09:40:12 UTC), a very bright fireball detonated over Washington state. Hundreds of eyewitness accounts have poured in with various institutions. Some of the eyewitness reports, as compiled in a newsitem by the Seattle Times, can be found here. and a similar compilation by the Bremerton Sun can be found here.

"screencapture of the moment of the massive flare, from Ed Majdens all sky video record from Courtenay, Canada (see below). The very bright light on the down left side almost at the horizon is the fireball. Image courtesy Ed Majden, MIAC"

During the brightest flare, the landscape lit up like in daylight. Some very impressive security camera video's were obtained, with a spectacular example here:

A strong sonic boom rattled windows in a wide area around the point of detonation. Many people thought an earthquake was in progress.

Video images & seismic data

The Sandia All-Sky fireball video camera operated by Ed Majden of the Canadian MIAC captured the fireball low at the eastern horizon from Courtenay, Vancouver Island, Canada. The spectacular video shows a slow fireball detonating in a very impressive flare. The magnitude of the flare is such, that it is possible that the object completely disintegrated at that time. Further analysis of all available data should shed some light on this. There are some attempts done to try to recover possible meteorites in the area around Snohomish by various groups and individuals. An early report on an impact near Chehalis, was later shown to be a hoax.

We do not exclude the possibility that meteorites survived, but do note that the massive flare might indicate that the object completely disintegrated. It is very well possible that nothing survived.

The sonic booms have been registered by several seismographs of the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network (PNSN). In a June 3 press release (see the link) William P. Steele, coordinator of the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network, and Stephen D. Malone place the detonation of the fireball at 43 km altitude in the neighborhood of Snohomish, Washington state.

No satellite decay

We can exclude that this was a satellite decay. Ed Majdens' video from Courtenay shows the object moving too fast for that. Moreover, checking with NASA OIG revealed no suitable decay candidates near this date. The unmanned Progress M1-11 spacecraft, on its return from the International Space Station, made a controlled decay on June 3rd but did not come near the location of the June 3rd fireball at all.

Further reading:

The event is very well covered by the Asteroid/Comet Connection.

news bulletin written by Marco Langbroek, 6 June 2004

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