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I'm fairly new and on one of my daily stargazing sessions I viewed, with the naked eye, a huge passing light going SE, from my perspective it was brighter and bigger than any stars, planets or meteors that I've seen before. It was roughly the size of a baseball. 

If this was a star -> . 

this is roughly how big it looked -> O

It had a trail of similar size, seemingly dusty. It also passed and disappeared between Corona Borealis and one of Hercules' legs. 

Viewed on May 16th, 22:00- 23:40 

 

I assumed, based on recent headlines, that it was Comet Swan, but upon further investigation, that was far from true. 

Comet Swan should not be visible with the naked eye, and definitely not to the degree I saw. Additionally, based on my coordinates* it wouldn't even cross the sky I saw, it would be below the horizon. 

(*roughly 15 °N, 120 °E, PH)

 

Considering again the magnitude of the object amd the fact that I viewed it with the naked eye discounts it from being an asteroid or meteor*. 

(*More possible but still hard to believe with its size, you wouldn't even see something like that during meteor showers)

 

So I then researched if it could be space debris. I thought that something as big as that should be covered by a news article somewhere. 

*The only results were of the 18 ton Chinese Rocket but it couldn't be that because:

A. It passed over Los Angeles and New York then fell into the Atlantic Ocean, with some pieces landing in Africa. Meaning it wouldn't pass over my country.

B. That happened 5 days before my viewing, on May 11 at 11:33 AM ET (08:33 PDT)

 

It's still possible but it just seems unlikely, and with how big it was I'd assume that it would attract some media attention but I cant find anything else. 

Does anyone have any idea what it could have been? I have to know. If it was debris then all I need is confirmation.  

 

*

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cnbc.com/amp/2020/05/16/chinese-rocket-falls-to-earth-space-debris-problem-worsens.html

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2020/5/13/21256484/china-rocket-debris-africa-uncontrolled-reentry-long-march-5b

 

 

 

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RH323, you're right that it couldn't have been comet Swan, nor could it have been any comet if it was moving noticeably - comets follow paths around the sun and so they don't appear to move against the background stars to the naked eye, only very slowly, as do the planets.

Can you give any more information? You say about baseball size, but a baseball held how far away? Or better, can you compare it with the size of a celestial object like the full moon?
Can you describe the speed, or say for how long it was visible?
Did it have a noticeable colour?

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The International Space Station passed very close to that part of the sky on that day. It was magnitude -2.5 so pretty bright. The UK time of the ISS pass was around 22:00 hrs.

 

 

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Wonderful, that's a great amounf of research you already did! Zermelo has some good questions that will help us trying to figure out what you saw. Like John, my first guess would be the ISS or another bright satellite, but although they're bright, they are not as bright as Venus (also visible right now in the evening) and don't leave a trail. Comets move way slower, their movement is only visible from day to day but not within a few minutes.

Another possibility is a bolide or fireball (a very bright meteor). If that is the case, based on the brightness you described there must have been other sightings of this event. Here in The Netherlands is a central contact point to report these kind of meteors, I'm not sure where you live, but maybe you can check for other sightings on a local bolide reporting website.

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There are reports that rockets , usually military ones, empty their excess fuel in the upper atmosphere and create spectacular sights. Photos below show one of these events.

35530CAE-4FD1-4024-9021-3C6DC3E7B66B.jpeg

E520E433-D4A4-4058-BB02-AE5116D97A6E.jpeg

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19 hours ago, Zermelo said:

RH323, you're right that it couldn't have been comet Swan, nor could it have been any comet if it was moving noticeably - comets follow paths around the sun and so they don't appear to move against the background stars to the naked eye, only very slowly, as do the planets.

Can you give any more information? You say about baseball size, but a baseball held how far away? Or better, can you compare it with the size of a celestial object like the full moon?
Can you describe the speed, or say for how long it was visible?
Did it have a noticeable colour?

Zermelo,  to answer your questions

It was a moonless night so I can't be certain but  it was roughly 10 times the size of Jupiter (viewed from the naked eye), perhaps a bit smaller than the size of the moon, when the moon is completely overhead. (like the picture below)

It was visible for roughly 2-3 seconds after which, not even the trail was visible. And there wasn't a noticeable colour just a white light.

DSC_0198.JPG

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16 hours ago, Dippy said:

There are reports that rockets , usually military ones, empty their excess fuel in the upper atmosphere and create spectacular sights. Photos below show one of these events.

35530CAE-4FD1-4024-9021-3C6DC3E7B66B.jpeg

E520E433-D4A4-4058-BB02-AE5116D97A6E.jpeg

It wasn't quite that big and gassy, but I do find this very fascinating-

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2 hours ago, RH323 said:

....It was a moonless night so I can't be certain but  it was roughly 10 times the size of Jupiter (viewed from the naked eye), perhaps a bit smaller than the size of the moon, when the moon is completely overhead....

 

The Moon is the same size in the sky whether it is at the horizon or right overhead.

The apparent diameter of the moon is around 1800 arc seconds and Jupiter is 50 arc seconds so 36x smaller than the Moon in the sky.

The International Space Station is a similar size in the sky to Jupiter, a lot brighter, moves across the sky quite quickly as you watch it and, on the night in question and around the correct time, the ISS passed across the section of sky that you mentioned in your original post.

 

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27 minutes ago, John said:

The Moon is the same size in the sky whether it is at the horizon or right overhead.

The apparent diameter of the moon is around 1800 arc seconds and Jupiter is 50 arc seconds so 36x smaller than the Moon in the sky.

The International Space Station is a similar size in the sky to Jupiter, a lot brighter, moves across the sky quite quickly as you watch it and, on the night in question and around the correct time, the ISS passed across the section of sky that you mentioned in your original post.

 

That seems like a perfectly valid explanation to what I saw, and likely based on what you said but would the ISS, at its speed, create a trail? 

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40 minutes ago, John said:

on the night in question and around the correct time, the ISS passed across the section of sky that you mentioned in your original post.

I don't think so John, from the coordinates in the original post I think that the OP is in the Philippines. 😀

I checked Stellarium for his time & location & the ISS was not visible.

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52 minutes ago, lenscap said:

I don't think so John, from the coordinates in the original post I think that the OP is in the Philippines. 😀

I checked Stellarium for his time & location & the ISS was not visible.

It might have helped if he had said "I observed this from the Phillippines" in the original post rather than leaving others to work this out :rolleyes2:

A very helpful website for working out what you might have seen is "Heavens Above". You can create a login and input your location (all free) and it shows you a wealth of information about natural and man made stuff including star maps, paths, timings etc, etc.

https://www.heavens-above.com/

 

 

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23 minutes ago, John said:

It might have helped if he had said "I observed this from the Phillippines" in the original post rather than leaving others to work this out :rolleyes2:

A very helpful website for working out what you might have seen is "Heavens Above". You can create a login and input your location (all free) and it shows you a wealth of information about natural and man made stuff including star maps, paths, timings etc, etc.

https://www.heavens-above.com/

 

 

Sorry for that and the confusion, anyways thank you for the suggestion!

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4 hours ago, RH323 said:

it was roughly 10 times the size of Jupiter

The resolution of the human eye is about twice the maximum angular size of Jupiter, so with the naked eye Jupiter's "size" is exactly the same as all stars you can see with the naked eye. I think you mean brightness.

If the event you witnessed only lasted a few seconds, the only explanation is a very bright meteor, as I suggested earlier. It would be interesting to find out if there are other sightings in your neighbourhood.

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On 19/05/2020 at 22:28, Waddensky said:

The resolution of the human eye is about twice the maximum angular size of Jupiter, so with the naked eye Jupiter's "size" is exactly the same as all stars you can see with the naked eye. I think you mean brightness.

If the event you witnessed only lasted a few seconds, the only explanation is a very bright meteor, as I suggested earlier. It would be interesting to find out if there are other sightings in your neighbourhood.

I did mean brightness, sorry for that! I'm still pretty new to all this so I appreciate the correction. 

I actually did research on whether it was a fireball or bolide. They're quite fascinating really. Based on the descriptions and qualifications for what counts as one, it seems the most likely explanation.

I checked for any sites where they list sightings. Unfortunately there isn't one for my country, or seemingly any reports from my country. So I checked an international one. There were many sightings on the day I viewed it but the viewing times were very far from mine, the closest one was a report from Singapore at 17:10 UT, two hours after my viewing.

But based on what I've read, I do think that what I saw was a fireball or bolide. So I sincerely thank you for that suggestion and for essentially solving my mystery!

 

 

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6 hours ago, RH323 said:

I did mean brightness, sorry for that! I'm still pretty new to all this so I appreciate the correction. 

I actually did research on whether it was a fireball or bolide. They're quite fascinating really. Based on the descriptions and qualifications for what counts as one, it seems the most likely explanation.

I checked for any sites where they list sightings. Unfortunately there isn't one for my country, or seemingly any reports from my country. So I checked an international one. There were many sightings on the day I viewed it but the viewing times were very far from mine, the closest one was a report from Singapore at 17:10 UT, two hours after my viewing.

But based on what I've read, I do think that what I saw was a fireball or bolide. So I sincerely thank you for that suggestion and for essentially solving my mystery!

I'm sorry, I was being a nitpick. The size is the impression you get when you see a bright object and was described exactly in this way by writers of the past (Tycho Brahe for example tried to actually measure the size differences of several brighter and dimmer stars).

Anyway, that's a nice catch! Really bright meteors are rare, you are very lucky to have seen one.

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