A bright Leonid fireball exploded over Missouri, U.S. at around 11:24 UTC on November 18, 2020 (05:24 CST). The event was so bright that it cast shadows and momentarily blinded the Missouri Skies Observatory camera located in Albany, Missouri.
The American Meteor Society (AMS) received 54 reports from witnesses in Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Indianapolis, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
Missouri fireball heatmap - November 18, 2020. Credit: AMS
"This was a remarkable event to see on a video but must have been spectacular to see in person," said Dan Bush of the Missouri Skies Observatory who recorded the event from Albany, MO.
"I think my video speaks more to the train afterward than to the actual flash. In my still frame stack of images, I left out the brightest frame because it overwhelmed the stack of images turning it all white."
"Note the smokey trail of debris," Bush said. "It hung in the sky, twisting in the winds of the upper atmosphere for more than 5 minutes after the flash."
The American Meteor Society received two videos showing the event, one from Lead Hill and the other from Central City.
The annual Leonid meteor shower peaked on November 17 and 18, with peak hour rates near 15. The source of this shower is Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle.
This is a periodic comet with an orbital period of 33 years.
The comet fits the classical definition of a Halley-type comet with a period of between 20 and 200 years. It was independently discovered by Wilhelm Tempel on December 19, 1865, and by Horace Parnell Tuttle on January 6, 1866.
Featured image credit: Leonid fireball over Missouri on November 18, 2020. Credit: James H.