About a week ago, these incredible photos were taken as the Earth passed through the orbit of comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, resulting in a powerful meteor shower that happens annually known as the Perseids. Some of these are composite photos, of several different meteors that rained down.
Some meteors apparently burn bright green when they hit Earth’s atmosphere, and these are referred to as “green fireballs.” Theories circulate about them being some other unidentified flying object, instead of a meteor. My first thought was that maybe the meteors have copper in them, which turns green when burned.
In February, a huge green fireball soared over the Midwestern US, creating a booming sound powerful enough to shake houses in Wisconsin. This clip captured it:
In 2015, a photographer accidentally captured this picture of a green fireball over Southern India.
At first, it seemed to me that they were just meteors. Upon further investigation, “green fireballs” were once tied to military activity and weapons testing. In the mid-Twentieth Century, weapons tests that looked just like green fireballs took place.
In the 1940’s, green fireballs were spotted for possibly the first time in recent history in New Mexico, in a time of prevalent, outrageous military testing of weapons, from nuclear weapons to biological weapons.
Fritz Zwicky, an astrophysicist with California Institute of Technology who also worked for Aerojet as Director of Research, obtained payload space in a V-2 rocket to eject small Army rifle grenades at a high altitude, creating weaponized, artificial “meteors” to strike a target.
It was noted that jets of copper or iron particles would be visible as “meteor like trails,” and copper of course turns green when it is burned.
This is a photo from the December 16, 1946 experiment, which also occurred in New Mexico, exactly where the first reports of green fireballs came from. It took place at the White Sands Missile Range.
Then other military personnel began reporting the phenomena, and they were actually perceiving it as a threat. According to Project 1947:
“At 9:05 PM MST, the crew of a USAF C-47 transport flying from Lowry AFB, Colorado, to Williams AFB, Chandler, AZ, sees a green flarelike light just west of Las Vegas, NM. At 9:30 they report by radio to Kirtland AFB, Albuquerque, that they had seen another green flare rise from the ground to 500 ft altitude on the eastern slope of the Sandia Mountains at 9:27.
Pioneer Air flight 63, another C-47, radios Kirtland AFB tower that its crew had seen a green light west of Las Vegas, NM at 9:35 while flying due west at 9,000 ft. They thought it was a “shooting star” at first, “but it was too close to the ground.” The pilot, Ernest Van Lloyd, suggests that the light could have been a Very pistol flare. After landing, he telephones Kirtland tower to discuss the incident. He says that when he first saw the phenomenon it was coming straight at him and he was so startled that he attempted to jerk the plane out of the way. The light then trailed off to the ground. It was pale green with a pale green trail.
“When the initial report of December 5 was made at Sandia Base, a conference was held between Air Force, Army and Department of Justice personnel for the purpose of evaluating this information. It is understood that a report of this has gone to respective headquarters.””
But if the tests occurred in the 1940’s, shouldn’t the technique have been either perfected or abandoned?
Lone, mysterious green fireballs continue to appear all over the world even in the absence of a meteor shower, often creating a large boom. However, if they are not meteors, they probably aren’t “tests” either: they are probably a military program that is fully into effect, doing something we don’t know about.
Some theorize about the phenomena being linked to extra-terrestrials, and all kinds of other things.
However, it seems just as likely that they are meteors. Perhaps one day the answer will come.
(Image credit: Strange Sounds)