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.
On Tuesday, Sept. 23, a second fireball occurred about 40 minutes after the fireball in Tennessee. The Michigan fireball is close to the edge of the camera because the meteor was at extreme range, over 200 miles away, for the camera.
The Michigan fireball was produced by a piece of a comet over 2 feet across, probably weighing around 40 pounds. It hit Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 54,000 mph.
At approximately midnight local time on the night of September 6 (September 7, 6 UTC), a loud explosion was heard in an area near Managua, Nicaragua. A crater some 39 feet in diameter was found near 86.2 degrees west longitude, 12.2 degrees north latitude, in good agreement with the reports of explosive sounds. It has been suggested that a meteorite may have caused this crater; however, the lack of fireball reports from the surrounding populated area seems to suggest some other cause. The skies were partially clear, and an object capable of producing a crater this large would have also generated a very bright fireball (brighter than the Full Moon) that should have been seen over a wide area. Some have drawn analogies to the September 2007 Carancas meteorite fall in Peru; however, there were fireball reports associated with this event, even though it occurred in the daytime near noon.
While a meteoritic origin for this crater cannot be ruled out with absolute certainty, the information available at this time suggests that some other cause is responsible for its creation.
North America has a pretty good seat for this cosmic event.
1. First, check the visibility map to make sure it’s visible from your location.
2. Then check the weather – if you are expecting clouds, then Mother Nature has just rained on your parade and you won’t be able to see any meteors from outside your home. However, we will continue to stream clear skies here overnight, trying to find the best view of the night sky from our network of ground based telescopes.
3. If the weather gods are smiling down upon you, find a safe, dark location – away from city lights and lay out beneath the stars. You don’t need to look in any particular direction, just straight up, but away from the moon. Meteors can appear all over the sky.
4. Add a lawn chair or sleeping bag and some snacks and you should be set!
The annual Perseid meteor shower will peak in the skies over Earth on the night of Aug. 12-13. Despite a bright moon, there should still be a good show from this prolific shower. Projected peak rates are 30-40 meteors/hour. Much of the world can see Perseids any time after full dark, with peak viewing projected early on the morning of Aug. 13 (3-4 a.m., your local time).
Dr. Bill Cooke, Rhiannon Blaauw and Danielle Moser of the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office will take your Perseid questions via live web chat. The chat module will appear on this page on Aug. 12 at 11 p.m. EDT (Aug. 13, 3:00 UTC). A Ustream view of the skies over Marshall Space Flight Center will be embedded on this page on Aug. 12 at 9:30 p.m. EDT (Aug. 13, 1:30 UTC).
The map below shows global viewing for the Perseids. Click on the map for a larger view. (NASA/MSFC/Danielle Moser)
From our Meteoroid Environment Office here at Marshall Space Flight Center, courtesy of Danielle Moser, showing the speeds of several meteor showers. (NASA/MSFC/Danielle Moser)
We have completed our analyses and here’s what we know:
At 10:19 PM Central Daylight Time on August 2 (Saturday night), NASA meteor cameras detected a very bright fireball at an altitude of 57 miles above Hoodoo Road just east of the town of Beechgrove, TN. The meteoroid, which was about 15 inches in diameter and weighed close to 100 lbs, travelled just over 100 miles to the south south east at 47,000 miles per hour, breaking apart in a brilliant flash of light above the Alabama town of Henagar. The cameras continued to track a large fragment until it disappeared 18 miles above Gaylesville, located near Lake Weiss close to the Georgia state line. At last sight, the fragment was still traveling at 11,000 miles per hour. Based on the meteor’s speed, final altitude, and weak doppler radar signatures, it is believed that this fireball produced small meteorites on the ground somewhere between Borden Springs, AL and Lake Weiss.
The meteoroid’s orbit has its farthest point between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and is inclined to that of the Earth (which explains its southerly direction).
Check out the video!
The NASA Meteoroid Environment Office would like to hear from those in the area around Alabama’s Lake Weiss who may have heard sonic booms or like sounds around 10:20 PM Saturday night. Please contact Dr. Bill Cooke at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have reports of such.
Step outside and take a look at the skies on the evening of May 23 into the early morning of May 24. Scientists are anticipating a new meteor shower, the May Camelopardalids. No one has seen it before, but the shower could put on a show that would rival the prolific Perseid meteor shower in August. The Camelopardalids shower would be dust resulting from a periodic comet, 209P/LINEAR.
“Some forecasters have predicted a meteor storm of more than 200 meteors per hour,” said Bill Cooke, lead for NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “We have no idea what the comet was doing in the 1800s. The parent comet doesn’t appear to be very active now, so there could be a great show, or there could be little activity.”
The best time to look is during the hours between 06:00 and 08:00 Universal Time on May 24, or between 2-4 a.m. EDT. That’s when forecast models say Earth is most likely to encounter the comet’s debris. North Americans are favored because their peak occurs during nighttime hours while the radiant is high in the sky.
On the night of May 23-24, NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke will host a live web chat from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. EDT. Go to this page to learn more about the May Camelopardalids, to get information about the live chat and to view the live Ustream view that will be available during the chat.
Last night at 8:38:30 PM CDT, a basketball size meteoroid entered the atmosphere 63 miles above Columbia, South Carolina. Moving northwest at 78,000 miles per hour, it burned up 52 miles above the Tennessee country side, just north of Chattanooga. This fireball was not part of any meteor shower and belongs to a class of meteors called Earthgrazers. These meteors skim along the upper part of the atmosphere before burning up. This one travelled a distance of 290 miles, which is quite rare for a meteor.
The fireball over southern California last night at 7:49 PM PST was a North Taurid. Brighter than the Full Moon, it was caused by a piece of Comet Encke about 2 feet in diameter hitting the atmosphere at 56,000 mph. Information about the fireball was provided by NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office (MEO) and is the NASA organization responsible for meteoroid environments pertaining to spacecraft engineering and operations. The MEO leads NASA technical work on the meteoroid environment and coordinates the existing meteoroid expertise at NASA centers.
The annual Perseid meteor shower peaked on Aug. 12 and 13, 2013, filling the sky with streaks of light caused by the meteoroids burning up in Earth’s atmosphere. Big meteor showers like the Perseids, are caused when Earth travels through a region of space filled with debris shed by a comet. The Perseids have been observed for at least 2,000 years and are the small fragments from comet Swift-Tuttle. These bits of ice and dust wander in space for centuries, finally burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere to create one of the best meteor showers of the year.
Compilation of Perseid meteors taken by the NASA All Sky Fireball Network cameras. Video credit: NASA/MSFC/MEO
This Perseid fireball meteor was observed in the skies over Chickamauga, Ga., on Aug. 11, 2013, at 2:14:49 a.m. EDT. It was also recorded by four other cameras in the NASA All Sky Fireball Network. Image Credit: NASA/MSFC/MEO