General Question

Cherry's avatar

Is it a comet? Or something else?

Asked by Cherry (51points) June 12th, 2010

Tonight my friend and me were walking home..(2:15am roughly) Anywho we saw a moving orange light…Kinda like the colour of fire or like the orange glow of a lamp post. Anyway it moved through the sky lower then a plane, didn’t make any noise either so it definitely wasn’t a plane or helicopter. And then after about 30/45 seconds it got dimmer and dissapeared. So just wondering has anyone seen anything like this it a “Shooting star” or just abit of crappy space hardware. =)

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12 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

There is no comet that is easily visible to the naked eye now. And a comet is stationary and would not move.

What you saw could either have been a meteorite or a piece of space hardware – both burn as they enter the earth’s atmosphere.More likely a meteor, also known as a “shooting star.”

(My friend and I were…..)

Cherry's avatar

I hoped it was a shooting star..mainly because they are one of my favourite things.I looked online and people were like it could be chinese lanterns lol..But it deffinatly wasn’t that.

YARNLADY's avatar

Comet McNaught is brighter than expected, and will be visible in the predawn sky this month.

If you saw a moving light, it most likely wasn’t a comet, as comets appear to be stationary.

gailcalled's avatar

In order to see Comet McNaught, you’ll need dark skies and good seeing, a clear view of the eastern horizon at dawn, the willingness to get up at 4:30 AM or so and a familiarity with the constellations that frame it. Signposts are alpha Persei and Capella.

ETpro's avatar

It is unusual for a meteorite to take half a minute to cross the sky and disappear. It may wll have been space junk burning up as it reenters the Earth’s atmosphere. Also the orange color is a hint. Polycarbonates burn orange. Sodium is the only metal I know of that burns distincly orange in the presence of oxygen, and it seems unlikely space junk would contain pure sodium, so I will guess it was a falling piece of plastic. I’m not sure what that does to the normal rules of wiching on a shooting star. :-)

Nullo's avatar

Sounds like your friend saw one of our artificial satellites. They’re tough to spot.

ragingloli's avatar

I have seen two of those close to each other over a year ago. I have yet to encounter a satisfactory explanation.
Could have been
– a meteor, but meteors usually have tails
– so do comets
– and falling pieces of space junk that burn up during descent
– a satellite, but like the moon, the light reflected from the satellite should be white, but that might depend on how much atmosphere the sunlight had to pass before it was reflected by the satellite
– the signal lights of an aeroplane, but those usually blink
– a weather balloon
– swamp gas
– an extraterrestrial spaceship entering the atmosphere, its electrogravitic propulsion system ionising the air around it and making it glow, then leaving the atmosphere, with the glow growing weaker as the atmosphere thins with growing altitude.

gailcalled's avatar

@ragingloli: I vote for the spaceship; I would speculate that it was piloted by Elvis.

Meteors don’t have tails; as they fall to earth, they leave a streak of ignited atmospheric particles and usually burn up before they land.

Comets are stationary during the course of one night.

Nullo's avatar

@ragingloli If it helps any, the times that the Moon appears to be orange when near the horizon it’s because the light has more atmosphere to travel through than when the Moon is near its zenith.

gailcalled's avatar

@Nullo: And it is more orange when the air is more polluted, sadly.

elizabethswanson's avatar

The orange thing you saw could of been a satilite, or even a comet or shooting star. It is probably not aliens dont worry, your ok!!

gailcalled's avatar

@elizabethswanson: Welcome to fluther.

A satellite and a shooting star move rapidly across the sky (particularly the meteor) and a comet has a tail. Plus there would be media attention if there were a bright comet. It appears in the same spot in the sky for at least several weeks.

And you’re correct. It is probably not aliens. (could have).

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