Meteorites and Their Properties

IX. Meteor Reports

People often observe fireballs (bright streaming orbs which are produced by the frictional ablation of a meteoroid) crossing the sky, either during the daytime or at night. When a fireball is seen it is usually several miles high and if it were to reach the ground any surviving meteoritic material would be over 800 km (500 miles) from the observer. However, if the fireball is observed by enough people, possibly separated by several hundred kilometers, then a point of impact may be calculated.

If you see a large meteor or fireball you should stand still and do the following before moving:

  1. Determine the angle of the meteor's path with respect to the horizon by measuring its altitude where first seen and where it finally disappeared. (In degrees if possible; the horizon is 0° and the zenith is 90°.)
  2. Determine its direction by measuring the compass headings of where you first saw the meteor and where it disappeared. You can measure these compass headings later if you mark your position and that of the sightings with landmarks on the horizon.

Once you have made these measurements, write them down and then transfer them to the following form. You will also need to include additional information, such as the object's color and brightness, and the time it appeared. Once you have prepared the report, contact the American Meteor Society at

Please note, however, that reports should be restricted to sightings of fireballs and should not include the small meteors that are visible on almost any night. Small meteors, such as those seen during the Perseid meteor shower, are produced by tiny grains of dust which cannot be easily recovered. In many cases, these tiny particles completely burn up in the atmosphere.


  1. Observing Site
    1. (City, County, State):
    2. (Latitude, Longitude, Elevation):

  2. Time
    1. (Day, Month, Year):
    2. (Time; local or UT?):

  3. General Description
    1. Direction of travel: From ________ to _________
      (For example, from NE to SW, or in degrees if possible.)
    2. Altitude when first seen:
      Altitude when last seen:
    3. Brightness (of head or largest object):
      ___ Too bright to look at
      ___ As bright as full moon
      ___ As bright as star or planet
    4. Length of time visible
    5. If an explosion was witnessed, please describe.
      How long was it visible after explosion?
      Was it audible?
      How long after it exploded did you hear it and for how long was it audible?
    6. Was there a train of smoke, luminous path, or additional objects trailing the head?
    7. Length (in degrees, if possible):
    8. Color:

  4. Additional Description (If multiple objects, how many and what pattern? - please attach a sketch)

  5. Miscellaneous Remarks

  6. Observer (name, address, phone number)

Download a plain text version of the Meteor Report form.

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