Comparing eyewitness-derived trajectories of bright meteors to instrumentally-observed data

D.E. Moser

Planetary and Space Science
In Press, Accepted Manuscript, Available online 1 March 2017


• A tool to calculate crude meteor trajectories from eyewitness reports is described.
• The tool’s performance is evaluated by comparing to instrumental meteor data.
• 33 test cases with both eyewitness and instrumental data are evaluated.
• Results for cases with 75+ eyewitness reports are considered well-characterized.
• Eyewitness-derived meteor heights trend high and are often unrealistic.”

“The NASA Meteoroid Environment Office (MEO) is often called upon to analyze meteors of public interest observed over the United States. Data from meteor networks are often utilized to accomplish this, as are recordings from the general public. When these methods fail, eyewitness reports are the only resource which can be leveraged. The MEO developed a tool to crudely calculate the trajectories of bright meteors from the eyewitness reports submitted to the American Meteor Society. The tool was tested on eyewitness data for 33 cases and compared to observed data from the NASA All Sky Fireball Network. The tool performed better for cases with more than 75 eyewitness reports than those with fewer than 75, by almost a factor of two across all metrics except for the end height. For these cases, the eyewitness-derived trajectory was about 50 km from the observed trajectory, the radiant was within 15°, and the speed was within 20% of that observed on average. A description of the tool, example case studies, and general trends are described.”