meteor 

Reproduction of painting made by my father, Norman Appleton, of the day-time meteor event he observed in 1944 in Rhodesia (Now Zimbabwe).
We now know that the object (20-50 meter in size) fell in South Africa later that afternoon causing considerable damage over a relativly unpopulated area. A high-resolution version of this copyrighted image is available from the artist. For information about obtaining permission to use the image, or to obtain a higher-quality image, please contact Dr. Phil Appleton (apple@ipac.caltech.edu).

The 1944 Meteor Event

The meteor was seen by my father Mr. Norman Appleton who current lives in England. A complete decription of his observations of the meteor is found on the link below. We have determined that the event was reported by three observers and that it took place on November 1st 1944 between 3pm and 4pm local time. Please email me (Philip Appleton) on apple@ipac.caltech.edu if you would like to contact the artist, or if you have new information to contribute the the story of this amazing event. 

Based on his observations, we believe that the object was approximately 50-100 m in size and may have been transitioning from supersonic to sub-sonic at the time of observation. Evidence that it was subsonic comes from the fact that the trail does not show the usual bow-shock appearence of supersonic object (in this image), and that the sound he heard (which lasted several minutes after the meteor had crossed overhead and travelled almost to the horizon) was that of a powerful roaring sound like thunder. However, another image publish in a newspaper showed a V-shaped pattern indicating that it may have been supersonic for some of the time.

The city of Bulawayo is one of the larger cities in modern Zimbabwe and the meteor seemed to be travelling south at a constant altitude  (taking it over South Africa). The event was witnessed by the residents of Bulawayo (the event was originally referred to as an example of "Ball Lightening" in a newpaper report the next day) who heard a loud bang which rattled windows in the city , likely the first time a sonic boom had been documented before the first supersonic aircraft had flown! The event was also documented by several newspaper reports and in an RAF Met. Office "Weather" report.

This is Norman Appleton's own description of what he saw:

Norman Appleton's DESCRIPTION OF EVENT
 
For more information contact:

Philip Appleton

Associate Research Astronomer
NASA Herschel Science Center
California Institute of Technology

626-395-3119

 
Recent developments:

June 2006: Richard Wade is conducting research at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. He has been working on his Ph. D and has been investigating oral tradition that may have been associated with this event. He was unaware of the picture and my fathers description of the meteor until recently. Work is therefore unfolding which may shed further light on what happened after the meteor passed overhead on that sunny day in 1944! Stay tuned!