Sunday, February 15, 2009
Booms & Fireballs Rock Texas
CNN) -- Sonic booms and at least one fireball in the sky were reported in Texas on Sunday, less than a week after two satellites collided in space and a day after the Federal Aviation Administration asked U.S. pilots to watch for "falling space debris," authorities said.
There were no reports of ground strikes or interference with aircraft in flight, FAA spokesman Roland Herwig said.
Herwig told CNN the FAA received no reports from pilots in the air of any sightings but the agency recieved "numerous" calls from people on the ground from Dallas, Texas, south to Austin, Texas.
Video shot by a photographer from News 8 TV in Austin showed what appeared to be a meteor-like white fireball blazing across a clear blue sky Sunday morning. The photographer caught the incident while covering a marathon in Austin.
On Saturday, the FAA told pilots through its routine notification system that "a potential hazard may occur due to re-entry of satellite debris into the earth's atmosphere." The notice did not specify a time or location. Video Watch video of meteor-like fireball »
Herwig said most of the reports the FAA received came in about midday Sunday in an area of Texas from Dallas south to Austin.
He said he was not certain where the information that sparked the FAA notification came from, but it was "probably from NORAD," or the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which tracks man-made objects in space. Calls to NORAD headquarters in Colorado were not immediately returned.
Lisa Block, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said her agency had received calls from residents surprised by sonic booms about 11 a.m. She said calls came from an area from Dallas to Houston.
Last week, the Russian and U.S. space agencies said two satellites, one Russian and one American, collided about 496 miles (800 kilometers) above Siberia, Russia.
The collision on Tuesday produced two large debris clouds, NASA said. The satellites collided at 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) per second, producing 500 to 600 pieces of space debris, the U.S. Strategic Command said.
Fire Ball Falls From
Last Edited: Sunday, 15 Feb 2009, 8:03 PM CST
Created On: Sunday, 15 Feb 2009, 3:19 PM CST
AUSTIN - FOX 7 has been receiving calls and e-mails from viewers that reported seeing a fireball falling from the sky at about 11 a.m. Sunday morning. An official from the Austin Fire Department said sightings have been reported from Austin to Fort Worth.
The debris is most likely from a February 10 collision between a Russian and U.S. satellite. The FAA would only say the debris could be related to the collision, but that they haven't been able to confirm it is.
Most of the debris is burning up in the atmosphere, but there have been reports of pieces landing across Texas.
NASA says debris could end up circling the Earth for years. The FAA did tell pilots to look out for possible debris on Saturday.
Matthew Donelon of Georgetown said he saw a "very bright orange/purple object streak across the sky to the north."
"The object left a smoke trail for a distance and then went out," Donelon said. "The smoke trail lasted for more than 15 minutes before it dispersed. There was no sound, so I estimate it was some distance away."
Max Lyon saw something similar.
He described it as "a bright glowing egg-shape with an orange center and bluish outer aura [with] a silvery-white tail."
"The tail was intact for several seconds, then became segmented," Lyon said. "I conclude that the single object became several objects during incineration aftermath -- a white tail remained visibile for up to 10 minutes."
FAA warns of possible falling satellite debris
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: February 15, 2009
The Federal Aviation Administration issued a warning to pilots and aircrews Saturday advising them to be on the lookout for possible "re-entry of satellite debris," presumably from an unprecedented satellite collision in space last week. Today, there were reports in Texas of at least one fireball and sounds of an explosion - possibly a sonic boom - but an FAA spokesman said it was not yet known whether the sightings involved satellite debris and if so, whether it came from either destroyed spacecraft.
It's also possible the fireball was the result of a large meteor burning up in the atmosphere.
"Late this morning, people started reporting to law enforcement there was a quote-unquote fireball and some people reported an explosion, which we suspect was probably a sonic boom," said Roland Herwig, a spokesman for the FAA's Southwest Region. "We had put out, the FAA had put out a notice to airmen, called a NOTAM, yesterday morning for pilots, for air crews to be on the lookout for space debris re-entering and and if they see anything to let the FAA know the location, the direction of travel, anything else they could about that. The notice to airmen says we suspect, we don't know, that this debris is from the two satellites that collided last week."
The actual NOTAM, however, does not mention the space collision Tuesday between a commercial Iridium telephone satellite and a defunct Russian communications station known as Cosmos 2251.
In any case, Herwig told reporters today there was no immediate "evidence of damage, no evidence of injuries, no evidence of anyone yet finding a chunk of satellite."
"We told the sheriff's departments, police departments, that people should be cautious around any debris that they do find," he said in a 5:30 p.m. EST teleconference. "But we have not gotten feedback on any debris. Nor have any aircrews reported anything."
He said until someone recovers actual debris, it may be impossible to tell whether the sightings involved wreckage from the Iridium-Cosmos crash, some other satellite or debris from a meteor. He said the Limestone County sheriff's office reported contact from someone who claimed to have a picture of the fireball and a smoke trail and a Plano, Texas, police cruiser may have capture images from a dashboard camera.
The collision between the Iridium-33 satellite and Cosmos 2251 occurred over northern Siberia at an altitude of about 490 miles around noon Tuesday. It was the first such collision in space history. An analysis of the orbits by Analytical Graphics Inc. concluded the spacecraft crashed into each other at some 15,000 mph, creating two large clouds of debris that continued along each spacecraft's orbital track.
The Cosmos ground track did not appear to cross the United States earlier today, but the Iridium's orbit did, according to widely available satellite tracking software. Whether any debris from the relatively small, presumably shredded satellite could have re-entered from the initially high altitude and caused the sort of fireball reported in Texas was not known.
Here is the NOTAM that was posted Saturday by the FAA:
"FDC 9/5902 FDC .. SPECIAL NOTICE .. EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. AIRCRAFT ARE ADVISED THAT A POTENTIAL HAZARD MAY OCCUR DUE TO REENTRY OF SATELLITE DEBRIS INTO THE EARTHS ATMOSPHERE. FURTHER NOTAMS WILL BE ISSUED IF MORE INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE. IN THE INTEREST OF FLIGHT SAFETY, IT IS CRITICAL THAT ALL PILOTS/FLIGHT CREW MEMBERS REPORT ANY OBSERVED FALLING SPACE DEBRIS TO THE APPROPRIATE ATC FACILITY TO INCLUDE POSITION, ALTITUDE, TIME, AND DIRECTION OF DEBRIS OBSERVED."
Herwig said he did not know what prompted the NOTAM or whether it originated with U.S. Strategic Command, which tracks satellites and space debris, or some other organization.
"It's usually something that's passed on to us by law enforcement or some other agency to create a notice," he said. "The notice is open ended, it says 'effective immediately until further notice, a potential hazard may occur due to re-entry of satellite debris.'"
Update: 9:53 PM
Debris from two satellites apparently plummeted to Earth near Waco on Sunday. Numerous people in Austin reported seeing a fireball in the sky before plummeting to Earth. An Austin TV station broadcast images of the fireball's flight.
In addition to Austin, the fireball was seen in Houston, Plano and as far north as Nebraska. Radar images showed it enter the Texas skies over the small town of West just north of Waco.
The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a warning to pilots to be aware of satellite debris falling to the earth.
Roland Herwig, southwest region FAA spokesman, said that the debris is from a falling satellite but could not directly link it to the reported collision of Russian and U.S. communications satellites.
“It’s yet to be proved it’s those satellites,” he said.
Doug Schmidt of Richardson was driving south on North Central Expressway near the George Bush Turnpike around 11 a.m. Sunday when he saw a flash of light in the sky.
“It was like a ball of flame with a tail. It looked like a meteor,” he said.
Residents from Marlin to Corsicana reported feeling "explosions" as debris from two satellites that had crashed last week began entering Earth's atmosphere. So far, no debris has been found.
Reports began coming into the KVUE-TV newsroom in Austin around 11 a.m. Many reported seeing the fireball to the north and west of Austin. Callers said the fireball lasted just several seconds before disappearing.
There were initial reports that a plane may have gone down in Williamson County. Emergency crews searched the area around Liberty and Leander for about 45 minutes, but did not find anything.
The Federal Aviation Administration in Austin did not believe it was a plane crash. They said all of their planes had been accounted for.
The government has issued a warning that if any debris is found, it shouldn't be touched.
WFAA-TV, WFAA.com, KVUE-TV, The Dallas Morning News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.