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  • Green Fireball Sightings: Part 4

Welcome back! This week we're taking a look at another experiment Dr. LaPaz performed while searching for answers related to the green fireballs.

Missed a few parts? Don't worry! Click below to get started.

January 25, 1949

Above photo taken from Project 1947

Dr. William Crozier, who is conducting a research project related to reentry vehicles funded by the Navy, is taking air samples in Socorro, New Mexico. He developed a sampling device which draws air through filter paper discs, called an "impactment dust collector." Dr. Crozier previously used the device to attempt to collect microscopic particles of meteor debris that drifted down from the upper atmosphere. The military funded this research to research the dynamics of objects traveling at hyper-sonic speeds in the upper atmosphere. 

Dr. LaPaz believes the green fireballs might have produced microscopic particles like those previously collected by Dr. Crozier. He gets in touch with Crozier to ask if they could try to capture these particles using his device. When LaPaz examined the sample they collected, there were large amounts of unusual, microscopic copper spheres. Copper is one of the rarest elements in natural meteors. That much copper means it can't be a meteor, right?

January 26

LaPaz and Crozier capture a second air sample. More copper particles are found. LaPaz is now convinced this is evidence that the fireballs are artificial, but Crozier is more skeptical.

January 30

4:45 pm in New Mexico — 12:45 am on January 31, local time

In Gaedheim, Germany, a glowing, pale-blue object descends from the northeast and hits the ground near the main river with a loud explosion. Witnesses say it looked and sounded like a missile. The U.S. military investigates a few days later, which includes a chemical analysis of the debris. This is the fourth occurrence in the town since October of 1946.

5:45 pm in New Mexico

The largest fireball yet appears, with witnesses all the way in Texas. Within a minute, LaPaz receives a call from a witness. Over the next two hours, he speaks to over 100 witnesses. Many were members of the military who were waiting for an outdoor movie to start, but others were guards and agents who were looking for glowing objects. The witnesses also include oil workers, aircrew, and control tower personnel.

No sound was heard. LaPaz described it as a "green fireball," but Texas observers reported colors of blue, orange, red, and even purple when the object was close to the end of its path.

LaPaz plots the sightings. He finds the fireball was seen on a path that spanned 143 miles, and it traveled up to 14 miles per second, which is about 50,000 mph. It was about 12 miles high when it started, and descended to eight to ten miles by the time it disappeared. He concluded the entirety of the path of the fireball was closer to the Earth than any other meteorite he knew of, except for the green fireballs that appeared on the 12th and 20th of December.

These sightings didn't just happen in the late 1940s. There have been several fireballs in the years since, and the most recent was this year. Next week we're taking a look at these later sightings and how they connect to the first ones. Don't miss the final installment!

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