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[Article] Studies of Magnitudes in Star Clusters II. On the by Shapley H.

By Shapley H.

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It was traveling at high speed from southwest to northeast. Two pilots flying a B-29 over east-central Colorado may have been the first to see it. Reports quickly came in from northwest Kansas and southwest Nebraska. A huge ball of fire trailing a long, thin smoke cloud was seen traveling toward the Kansas-Nebraska border. So fast was it moving that no one reported seeing it for longer than five seconds before it passed behind buildings or simply disappeared beyond the horizon. Several people reported hearing explosions followed by a roaring sound similar to the noise of a jet engine.

Though it is possible for the sound accompanying the fireball to be heard over as wide an area, it usually is heard only by people close to the impact point, within 25 or 30 miles. The height at which a burning meteoroid first becomes visible as a fireball depends on its initial mass and velocity when it enters the uppermost part of the atmosphere. All meteoroids in space are moving at cosmic velocities. Since they have highly elliptical orbits that carry them from the asteroid belt to points well inside Earth's orbit, their cosmic velocities can be as high as 26 miles per second in the vicinity of Earth.

Shortly after the fireball occurred, the newspaper had printed a story about a plane crash in nearby Belshaw Meadows. The sheriffs office had quickly investigated but found no downed plane in the area. The editor told us that several people had either observed the fireball or heard it explode. All day we traveled along Highway 26 from John Day to Mount Vernon to Day ville, talking to people who had witnessed the event. The stories we heard from those closest to the falling mass were strikingly similar: Bob Maddox was 11 miles west of the town of Mount Vernon.

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