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Basic Information

A bolide is a large aerial fireball phenomenon. When appearing at night they are often brighter than the full moon. After shining brightly for a short while, they sometimes explode dramatically, other times they survive long enough to impact the Earth, and sometimes they just burn out harmlessly.

Usually, a bollide turns out to be a meteor or meteorite, a hunk of rocky or metallic asteroid. Sometimes they are caused by a hunk of icy comet (and not necessarily water ice - they could be frozen ammonia or methane). Exotic composition is certainly possible. For example, the Sutter's Mill strike (see below) deposited several small grains of diamond.

A not-insignificant percentage of UFO sightings are bolides.

Less common are superbolides, which shine 100 times as bright as a full moon (or brighter). These tend to get famous, such as the Tunguska event that hit Russia in 1908. Less devastating (and more recent) superbollides include the 2009 Sulawesi superbolide (Indonesia, 2009), the Sutter's Mill Meteorite (United States, 2012), and the Chelyabinsk meteor (Russia, 2013).



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