Bright Sky Event Over Southeastern United States – June 29

Meteor across SEComposite image showing bright event located near Rosman, North Carolina.

There was a bright event seen across several Southeast states last night at 12:29:30 AM CDT (1:29:30 EDT). Based on the data we currently have, this object was not a meteor or fireball. Tracked by 5 NASA cameras in the SE, it is moving at roughly 14,500 miles per hour, which is too slow to be a meteor. As you can see in the video, it has also broken into multiple pieces, which, combined with the slow speed, indicates a possible reentry of space debris. There are over 120 eyewitness accounts on the American Meteor Society website (www.amsmeteors.org)

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The 2015 Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower

Each spring as Earth passes through the debris trail from Halley’s Comet (1P/Halley), the cosmic bits burn up in our atmosphere and result in the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower. This year the peak will occur on May 6 about 9 AM EDT with meteor rates of about 30 meteors per hour near peak. Best viewing is just before dawn on May 6. Eta Aquarids zoom around the solar system at speeds near 148,000 mph.  Unfortunately for meteor shower observing enthusiasts the moon will seriously hampered viewing of the ETAs this year. reducing the peak rate to under 20 meteors per hour.

The Eta Aquarids are pieces of debris from Halley’s Comet, which is a well-known comet that is viewable from Earth approximately every 76 years. Also known as 1P/Halley, this comet was last viewable from Earth in 1986 and won’t be visible again until the middle of 2061. The annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower gets its name because the radiant — or direction of origin — of the meteors appears to come from the constellation Aquarius.

To read more about fireballs, go to NASA All Sky Fireball Network.

An image of an Eta Aquarid meteor from the NASA All Sky Fireball Network station in Tullahoma, Tennessee  in May, 2013.
An image of an Eta Aquarid meteor from the NASA All Sky Fireball Network station in Tullahoma, Tennessee in May, 2013.

 

Lyrid Meteor Shower Peaks Tomorrow, April 22

Dust off the lawn chairs and get ready for the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower which will occur on the night of April 22.

“The Lyrids are really unpredictable,” Cooke said. “For the 2015 shower, I’m expecting 15 to 20 Lyrid meteors an hour. Peak rates should occur after 10:30 PM on April 22 your local time, for observers in the northern hemisphere. For observers in the southern hemisphere, Lyrid rates are not significant until after midnight your local time.”

Viewing tips for the Lyrids

No special equipment is needed to watch a meteor shower. Simply find a dark, open sky away from artificial lights. Lie down comfortably on a blanket or lawn chair, and look straight up.

A camera, provided by scientists at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, will offer a live feed of the Lyrids beginning at 10:00 PM CDT.The camera is light-activated, and will switch on at nightfall. During daytime hours, the webcast will show recorded views of past meteor showers.

Watch the live feed here.

About the Lyrids

Lyrids are pieces of debris from the periodic Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher and have been observed for more than 2,600 years. In mid-April of each year, Earth runs into the stream of debris from the comet, which causes the Lyrid meteor shower. You can tell if a meteor belongs to a particular shower by tracing back its path to see if it originates near a specific point in the sky, called the radiant. The constellation in which the radiant is located gives the shower its name, and in this case, Lyrids appear to come from a point in the constellation Lyra.

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Fireball Reported in Colorado Early this Morning

A fireball occurred over southern Wyoming/northern Colorado at 6:01 AM Mountain Daylight Time. The available eyewitness and video information indicates that the meteor moved from East to West at about 45,000 miles per hour and weighed a few pounds (2 to 4 pounds are the preliminary estimates). The fireball belongs to a class of meteors called Earthgrazers, which hit the Earth’s atmosphere at a very shallow angle. They can travel a considerable distance before getting low enough to completely burn up; the eyewitnesses state that this fireball lasted longer than 10 seconds, which matches grazer durations. No meteorites are expected to have been produced by this event – it was too small and too high to drop fragments on the ground.

The numerous reports are typical of fireballs occurring during morning or evening work commute, and are not indicative of the relative brightness of the meteor.

Bright Fireball Seen Over New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio

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.

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Comet Lovejoy – January 2015

Image of Comet Lovejoy taken Saturday, January 10, by Dr. Bill Cooke. Image is a 3 minute exposure using the iTelescope T3 refractor. At the time of this image, the comet was some 45 million miles from Earth.

Discovered in August of 2014, Comet Lovejoy is currently sweeping north through the constellation Taurus, bright enough to offer good binocular views. Glowing softly with a greenish hue, Comet Lovejoy passed closest to planet Earth on January 7, while its perihelion (closest point to the Sun) will be on January 30. Classed as a long period comet, it should return again … in about 8,000 years.

LoveJoyView more images of Comets at our Flickr Gallery

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — for spotting a Geminid meteor! The 2014 Geminid meteor shower is forecast to be a lively meteor shower with great views in the skies over Earth. The week of Dec. 8 is a good window for Geminid-watching, but the night of Dec. 13-14 is the anticipated peak. Best viewing will be in dark sky locations, away from city lights.

Geminids are pieces of debris from an object called 3200 Phaethon. Long thought to be an asteroid, Phaethon is now classified as an extinct comet. Basically it is the rocky skeleton of a comet that lost its ice after too many close encounters with the sun. Earth runs into a stream of debris from 3200 Phaethon every year in mid-December, causing meteors to fly from the constellation Gemini. When the Geminids first appeared in the early 19th century, shortly before the U.S. Civil War, the shower was weak and attracted little attention. There was no hint that it would ever become a major display.

On Dec. 13, Cooke and a team of astronomers from Marshall Space Flight Center will host an overnight NASA web chat from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. CDT, answering questions about the Geminid meteor shower. The Geminids are expected to peak just before dawn on Dec. 14, with a predicted peak rate of 100 to 120 meteors per hour.

To join the webchat on Dec. 13, log into the chat page at: https://www.nasa.gov/connect/chat/geminids_2013.html

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Fireball Just Southwest of Tuscaloosa, Alabama Seen by All Sky Cameras

A bright fireball occurred at 8:18 pm CST, Nov. 20, just southwest of Tuscaloosa, Alabama and was detected by NASA All Sky Cameras. The fireball traveled at 67,000 miles per hour and appears to have broken apart at an altitude of 27 miles. It was as bright as the full moon, about 14 inches in diameter and weighed about 120 pounds.

The fireball was not part of the Leonid meteor shower. At this time, we do not believe any meteorites were produced.

This morning there are over 60 eyewitness reports on the American Meteor Society website.

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Brilliant Leonids Meteor Shower Peak Occurs Morning of Nov. 18

This year’s Leonids meteor shower peaks on the morning of Nov. 18. If forecasters are correct, the shower should produce a mild but pretty sprinkling of meteors. The waning crescent moon will not substantially interfere with viewing the Leonid shower.

“We’re predicting 10 to 15 meteors per hour,” says Bill Cooke of the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.  “For best viewing, wait until after midnight on Nov. 18, with the peak of the shower occurring just before sunrise.”

Cooke also recommends going to a location away from city lights, dressing warmly, and lie flat on your back and look straight up. No special viewing equipment needed —  just your eyes.

Leonids are bits of debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Every 33 years the comet visits the inner solar system and leaves a stream of dusty debris in its wake. Many of these streams have drifted across the November portion of Earth’s orbit. Whenever our planet hits one, meteors appear to be flying out of the constellation Leo.

A live viewing opportunity is available via Ustream from a telescope at Marshall Space Flight Center. The Ustream feed will be live beginning Monday, November 17 at 6:30 p.m. CST here and will continue until sunrise on Tuesday Nov. 18.

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Bright Meteor Spotted Over Tennessee

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.

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