Report a Fireball: it's fun and easy!

Ever seen a bolide or a fireball - a really big, bright shooting star? If so, you'll probably never forget it. You might have even tweeted, blogged or facebooked about it. Now, you can also report it via an easy to use report form to the International Meteor Organization (IMO) and make a contribution to science.

Fireballs are centimeter to meter-sized rocks burning up in the atmosphere and are truly awesome to watch. In exceptional cases they can get brighter than the full moon. But they are rare for a given person (I had the pleasure only a few times in my life, although I spent lots of hours under starry skies), and they happen out of the blue, so it's mostly laypeople (or better: "citizen scientists") who see and report them.

Screenshot IMO report form

Considering the extraordinariness of such an event, it is no wonder that information provided by these observers is often fragmentary and inaccurate. Some simple information about the fireball however can help a great deal to determine the trajectory of the object and in cases with a potential meteorite fall, even narrow down the search area for scientists who try to find these rocks from space.

Screenshot IMO report form

A common mistake is to guess the distance or altitude of a fireball. This is - by all means - impossible for a single observer! You might think the bright ball was very close, or just fell to the ground just behind some buildings or trees nearby, while in reality it happened in the upper atmosphere, many kilometers away.

Instead, it is essential to report the exact time of the event, your position and the direction you were looking at, how high the fireball appeared in the sky and in which direction it was moving.

Screenshot IMO report form

The IMO report form facilitates this very much. It is not even necessary to remember the cardinal points you were looking at or coordinates of your location. In 12 simple steps you are asked to report your observation by using interactive sliders and with the aid of Google maps. The form is available in more than 25 languages, submitted reports are collected into a public database which can be searched for particular events.

To play around with the form without submitting a false report, use the test version.

IMO asks to publicise the report form as widely as possible to ensure reports are collected from as many eye-witnesses as possible - you can help by sharing this article or the IMO website directly!

Reporting fireballs is fun and helps scientists, but reports are often inaccurate. A new interactive report form will facilitate the process.

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