Astronomers Von Del Chamberlain and David J. Krause of the Abrams Planetarium, Michigan
State University in East Lansing did an in-depth study of the reports of the Dec. 9th fireball from
across a wide area of the U.S. and Canada. They published a scientific paper in the
Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
(Aug. 1967- Vol. 61 no. 4, pp. 184-90). This object was in fact over a hundred miles from Kecksburg, "disappearing at a point over land some 15 miles south-east of Windsor [Ontario]". (Witnesses typically greatly underestimate the distance to brilliant fireballs such as this. See "UFOs Explained" by Philip J. Klass.)
"The usual rash of early reports gave 'landing sites' for the object ranging from western Michigan to Pennsylvania... Loud sonic booms were heard in the Detroit-Windsor region." Using photographs of the object's trail from two different locations, Chamberlain and Krause were able to calculate the orbit of the meteor before it entered the earth's atmosphere. NASA has placed the full text of that Journal article on-line here (it comes up slowly as a PDF file).
Chamberlain published a second scientific paper about the fireball: Chamberlain, Von Del, 1968: Meteorites of Michigan, Geological Survey Bulletin 5, East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan Department of Conservation, Geological Survey Division, pp. 1-5.
Another article about it, titled "Great Lakes Fireball", was
published in the February, 1966 issue of
Sky and Telescope
magazine, page 78. See
part of the article
here. In it, G. W. Wetherill, a professor of geophysics and geology at UCLA who investigated the incident, is quoted: "The fireball was observed by many people in Ontario, Michigan,
Ohio, Pennsylvania, and to a lesser extent in neigboring states. In newspaper accounts, a great
many supposed impact sites were reported, both in southwestern Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.
Fragments were claimed to have fallen in Ohio and Michigan.
These imagined happenings arose from the impossibility of estimating the distance of an object in the sky. Almost everyone who saw the fireball thought it was much closer than it really was. When it disappeared behind a house or a tree many people thought it had fallen only a few hundred yards beyond."
An article debunking the Kecksburg claim was published as far back as the Spring, 1991 issue of The Skeptical Inquirer magazine (Vol. 15 no. 3): "Old-Solved Mysteries: The Kecksburg Incident" by Robert Young. ( Purchase back issue for $6.25. ). An updated version of "Old-Solved Mysteries" begins on p. 177 of the book The UFO Invasion, edited by Kendrick Frazier, Barry Karr, and Joe Nickell. (Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY, 1997).
A March, 2003 news story about the controversy from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
view of Kecksburg
from UFO Casebook.
Thanks for assistance to Bob Young, Tim Printy, and James McGaha.
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