Anne-Marie de Grazia: my encounter with a bolide

Bolide of September 7th, 2014 over Blanes, Spain.

One month ago, on September 7th, the editor of (and translator of Jean-Baptiste Biot's Report of the Fall of a Meteorite on the 6th of Floreal of the Year 11, was witness to a spectacular bolide crossing the sky over Southern France.

The bolide captured by camera over Blanes, Spain.

In the early morning of September 7th, I was driving in the department of the Alpes-Maritimes on my way to our home near Le Mans, carrying in my car some 150 kilos of Alfred de Grazia’s original archives which had been scanned and processed in Bulgaria. I was coming from Nice, where I had spent the night, and driving on the Autoroute A8-La Provençale, between Cannes and Fréjus. To my left, between the highway and the sea, was the small mountain massif of the Esterel. At almost 7am, (the clock in my car is not set very accurately), the sky being clear, with a light, high morning mist, I saw a very bright, white object tear through the sky, coming from my right and moving towards my left, roughly from East to West, on a path that was almost horizontal. It left behind it a long white trail, with some brownish-red on both sides, like smoke. It was fairly low on the horizon, and perfectly framed, from one end to the other, within my windshield. It moved relatively slowly, meaning, much more slowly than a shooting star, at about the apparent speed, from my view-point, of a fast fighter-jet. It disappeared to my left, behind the mountains of the Esterel. I did not see it fall. I did not hear any sound. From all that I knew, I had clearly witnessed the trajectory of a meteorite. I took notice of the time on my clock and of the next kilometre-numberings on the highway on which I found myself.

A few hours later, I sent an email to the local newspaper of Nice, Nice-Matin, to the Nice Astronomical Observatory, and to FRIPON, Fireball Recovery and Interplanetary Observation Network, of the French Museum des Sciences Naturelles, the University of Paris-Sud and of the Paris Observatory, which runs a network of 100 cameras tracking fireballs, in the hope of increasing chances to recover meteoritic material rapidly after it hits the ground. This was the text of my message (translated):

This morning, Sunday September 7th, a few minutes before 7 o’clock, I was driving on the A8 in the direction Cannes-Fréjus and I found myself at about kilometre A8-152/153 when I saw in front of me a meteorite crossing the sky from my right to my left. The object was very bright and slow enough for me to see it very clearly. It had a bright trail, with some brown, like smoke. Judging from its trajectory, it must have fallen in the Esterel, or into the sea. I did not see it fall.
Anne-Marie de Grazia

Two hours later, I received an answer from François Colas, of FRIPON:

The bolide has been seen from Southern France and Spain. It was very brilliant (magnitude -15). If the object has reached the ground, it must have been in Spain.

François Colas

Colas added a link with a video.
(Magnitude -15 means that the object was 15 times brighter than the Full Moon.)

I answered:

Ah,merci! That’s extraordinary! I really thought that it had passed right in front of my nose!
Bien à vous,

Anne-Marie de Grazia

(The phenomenon as captured on the Spanish video (and the others to come) did not resemble very closely what I had witnessed, which is understandable: the Spanish cameras saw the object coming at them, whereas I had seen it passing in front of me, on its way to Spain - in profile, so to speak. The trail also was much longer than the one visible on the videos.) 

The following day, I received an answer from the Observatory of Nice, saying (translated):

To this day, we have no information about this phenomenon. We propose that you address your report to the site of the group GEIPAN of the CNES
There is also a French network of meteorite observations : as well as the network FRIPON where you can ask your questions. 

We will not fail transmitting you any information on this subject.
With our thanks,

M. Marc Fulconis
Responsible for Communication

I heard nothing more from them. By this time, the meteorite and other phenomena which had occurred the same day, and which seemed, at least at first sight, that they might be related, were very much in the news:

September 7th was also the day when Earth had a close passage with an NEO (Near Earth Object) asteroid (an object whose orbit brings it into close proximity with Earth), named 2014 RC, discovered just a few days before, on August 31st. 2014 RC passed 40,000 kilometers above New Zealand, one tenth of the Earth-Moon distance. And a mysterious crater, 12m in diameter and 5m deep appeared following a violent detonation near the airport of Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. Were these coincidences?

The French astronomy site Ciel et Espace wrote, under the plume of JL Dauvergne, on September 8th:

This Sunday, September 7th, 2014, does remind one of February 15th, 2013, when the city of Cheliabinsk, in Russia, was hit by the shock wave of a major atmospheric entry. On that same day, too, Earth had crossed the path of an NEO asteroid, 2012 DA 14.

The incident of September 7th has been luckily less tragic. This time, noone was hurt. The formation of a 12m crater in Nicaragua corresponds within a few hours to the closest near Earth passage of the NEO asteroid 2014 RC. Even more puzzling, a bolide much brighter than the full moon was observed above the Pyrénées, between France and Spain, the same day.

The events, hour by hour:

4 h 56 UT, a bolide 15 times brighter than the Full Moon is visible at dawn above the Pyrénées. It is registered by numerous cameras. Such an event is rare, but it remains of the domain of the ordinary. Several bolides of this type can be seen every year in France.

Around 5 h 15 UT, a detonation is heard in Nicaragua in the area of the capital, Managua. It is then 11:00pm, local time. A crater 12 m in diameter and 5m deep forms near the city. According to authorities, it is caused by a meteorite. “We are convinced that it was a meteorite,” Wilfredo Strauss, of the local seismological institute, declared to the press. “We have detected two waves, first a weak seismic wave corresponding to the moment when the meteorite impacted the ground, then a stronger one, corresponding to the shock wave, » he added. Videos, or eyewitness accounts of the fall would be desirable in order to confirm the hypothesis, but they seem to be lacking.

Update of 09/11/2014 : The Guardian reports a witness account by Victor Guttirez, a 38 year old mechanic living less than 2 km from the explosion site. He was outside at the moment of the explosion and what he describes seems to discredit the hypothesis of an impact. “I was walking home after playing billiards and suddenly I heard an explosion and felt a very strong shock-wave. I saw nothing in the sky, either before or after. ".
The fall of a clestial object creating a 12m crater would necessarily by connected with a flash of light of strong intensity at the moment of atmospheric entry.

18 h 46, UT, the asteroid 2014 RC, discovered on August 31, 2014, passes very close to Earth. It is then above New Zealand, at an altitude of 40 000 km, quasi 1/10 of the distance between Earth and Moon. Its size, estimated at 18m, is comparable to the one of the asteroid which disintegrated above Russia in 2013.

Is there a link between these events?

We must keep in mind that appearances can be misleading. Last year, many observers – including astronomers - thought that there was a link between the near Earth passage of asteroid 2012 DA 14 and the event at Cheliabinsk.
The difference in orbit between the two bodies has shown that this was not the case. This is probably the case again this time. The formation of the crater in Nicaragua and the bolide observed above the Pyrénées occured 13 hours before the passage of 2014 RC.

Translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia
Ciel et Espace

The website of Russia Today reported about the sighting of the bolide in Spain as well as about the crater in Nicaragua.

The crater in Managua is puzzling. I am in no position to voice an opinion.
It seems that, to this date, no trace has been found of the meteorite which is supposed to have fallen in Spain. 
If the bolide preceding by several hours the near-Earth passage of the NEO 2014 RC was purely coincidental, one cannot help being struck by the fact that the Cheliabinsk meteorite also preceded, coincidentally, by several hours the near-Earth passage of the NEO 2012 DA 14. This is a coincidence of coincidences...

Anne-Marie de Grazia

Anne-Marie de Grazia, 2014

Anne-Marie de Grazia is editor, webmaster, manager etc. of