2009 Geminid Meteor Shower & Bolide


On Monday morning, 14 December 2009, at 3:29 AM PST, widely-known astrophotographer Wally Pacholka took a spectacular shot of a brilliant Geminid bolide from a site to the northwest of GMARS in the Mojave Desert. The same meteor was caught by the GMARS Sentinel meteor camera in time-stamped video and a composite still. With a bit of angle calculation, we were able to roughly determine the location of the fireball as it burst incandescent over Southern California, approximately 30-40 miles above the ground and about 100 miles west of the observing positions.

Wally's picture was featured on the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) on 17 December 2009 (link).

A video of 66 meteors captured by the GMARS Sentinel camera during the Geminid shower includes the fireball; look for it about 3/4s of the way into the QuickTime movie below (about 2:55 into the video if you download it). Both the video and the composite image below it are in the native orientation from the Sentinel camera (think laying on your back, feet to the south, looking at the sky), so the fireball appears on the right-hand side.