For a few seconds early Thursday, night turned into day as an extremely bright fireball lit the pre-dawn sky over much of Arizona, blinding all-sky meteor cameras as far away as western New Mexico.
Based on the latest data, a small asteroid estimated at 5 feet (1-2 meters) in diameter – with a mass of a few tons and a kinetic energy of approximately half a kiloton – entered Earth’s atmosphere above Arizona just before 4 a.m. local (MST) time. NASA estimates that the asteroid was moving at about 40,200 miles per hour (64,700 kilometers per hour).
Orionid meteors appear every year around this time when Earth travels through an area of space littered with debris from Halley’s Comet. This year the peak will occur on the night of Wednesday, Oct. 21 into the morning of Thursday, Oct. 22.
“The Orionids will probably show weak activity this year,” says Bill Cooke of the NASA Meteoroid Environments Office . “Bits of comet dust hitting the atmosphere will probably give us about a dozen meteors per hour.”
The best time to look for Orionid meteors is just before sunrise on Thursday, October 22nd, when Earth encounters the densest part of Halley’s debris stream.
Observing is easy: Wake up a few hours before dawn, go outside and look up. No telescope is necessary to see Orionids shooting across the sky. Viewing conditions are favorable this year, as the light from the gibbous Moon should set by 2 a.m. EDT time, permitting good viewing just before dawn when the rates will be at their highest.
A live stream of the night sky from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. will be available via Ustream beginning October 21, at 10 p.m. EDT. The live feed is an alternative for stargazers experiencing bad weather or light-polluted night skies. If the weather in Huntsville is clear, Orionids may be seen in the feed as early as 11:30 p.m. EDT, though the hours before dawn should show the most Orionid activity.
The display will be framed by some of the prettiest stars in the night sky. In addition to Orionids, you’ll see the Dog Star Sirius, bright winter constellations such as Orion, Gemini, and Taurus, and the planets Jupiter and Venus. Even if the shower is a dud, the rest of the sky is dynamite.
Set your alarm, brew some hot chocolate and enjoy the show!
A very bright fireball seen over New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania at 4:45:17 EST this morning, February 17th. It was captured by three NASA cameras. The video came from a NASA camera located at Allegheny Observatory near Pittsburgh, PA. The other two cameras are located at Hiram College and Oberlin College, both in northern Ohio.
A bright meteor occurred around 5:18 am CDT the morning of September 30th. It was first detected 66 miles above Tennessee City, TN by four NASA All Sky Fireball Network cameras (located in Huntsville, AL, Chickamauga, GA, Tullahoma, TN, and Rosman, NC) and moved slightly south of east at a speed of 147,600 mph. It traveled just over 1 mile through the atmosphere before burning up about 53 miles above the ground.
The American Meteor Society has received over 80 reports from the public about a bright fireball seen on July 13, 2013 at 04:16:18 UTC (corresponding to July 13, 2013 at 00:16:18 EDT). Fireball sightings range from Georgia and South Carolina up through Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky, with most coming from North Carolina.
The NASA All Sky Fireball Network detected this fireball with four cameras stationed in Chickamauga, Georgia, Tullahoma, Tennessee, Dahlonega, Georgia, and Cartersville, Georgia. The event was just on the edge of the field of view in each camera, but bright enough to get the attention of the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office in Huntsville, Alabama, the engineers who run the NASA Network.
Preliminary analysis of NASA data indicates that this fireball came in at a speed of 28.1 km/s (62,900 mph) at an angle of 32 degrees from horizontal. The 600 g (1.3 lb) body was first picked up over Stanley, North Carolina at an altitude of 66.1 km (41 miles) and ablated most if not all of its mass away until it was last detected at 22.6 km (14 miles) over Morganton, North Carolina.
Image of the North Carolina fireball of July 13, 2013 taken by the NASA All Sky Fireball Network camera in Chickamauga, Georgia. The fireball exhibited a bright flare towards the end of its path. (Image Credit: NASA MEO)
The fireball trajectory is shown as a green line – the meteor moved from southeast to northwest. The southeastern branch of the NASA All Sky Fireball Network is shown as diamonds – red diamonds indicate that the fireball was observed from that station. Stations with a black diamond did not observe the fireball due to weather or geometry. Observer report information (blue people symbols) is taken from the American Meteor Society. (Image Credit: NASA MEO)
A composite image of 13 Eta Aquarid meteors from the NASA All Sky Fireball Network station in Mayhill, New Mexico the morning of May 6, 2013. Clouds seriously hampered our view of the ETAs this year. Observations reported to the International Meteor Organization indicate an outburst in the early hours of May 6th UTC.