Possible Major Meteor Shower This Weekend

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 22, 2014 – 8:30 pm -

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Skywatchers across North America are waiting with much anticipation for a new meteor shower that may even rival the trusty Perseids in August.

Some predictions are calling for up to 200 shooting star per hour between 2 and 4 am Eastern Daylight Time on Saturday, May 24th (11 pm on May 23 to 1 am PDT).  And there is one prediction by an astronomer that it may even be a meteor storm coming our way with up to 1000 meteors per hour!

About three years ago astronomers studying comets and their deris stream made a prediction that on May 24, 2014 Earth may be graced by a never-before-seen meteor shower called the ‘May Camelopardilids’.  Like all other showers, this one gets its name from the constellation where it appears to radiate out from, which in this case is Camelopardis – the giraffe.

While all this sounds extremely exciting we have to remember that these are based on computer models that are plotting out where Earth may be plowing through a cloud of debris floating between the inner planets.  Meteor showers occur when our planet slams into a stream of particles left behind by comets.  In this case its debris deposited in the 1800’s.   So basically one big educated guess where exactly Earth will be crossing the cometary debris cloud that causes the meteor shower.

It could literally be the best sky show in decades or a big bust.

But since no one knows for sure, I know what I will be doing in the early morning hours of Saturday. Getting out my blanket, brew some hot chocolate and keep looking up.

Read my complete viewer’s guide with skycharts at National Geographic News.


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Ontario Fireball Sets Off Meteorite Hunt

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 21, 2014 – 2:28 pm -

This is a shot of the bright metoer that streaked across southwestern Ontario on March 18, 2014 as captured by special all-sky camera monitors. Credit: University of Western Ontario

This is a shot of the bright meteor that streaked across southwestern Ontario on March 18, 2014 as captured by special all-sky camera monitors. Credit: University of Western Ontario

On Tuesday, March 18 at 10:24 pm EDT a super-bright fireball lit up southwestern Ontario skies.

Here is a photo captured by Univ. Western Ontario all-sky camera of the meteor event. Researchers now estimate it was a meteor the size of a basketball that entered Earth`s atmosphere. The cosmic intruder spend about 5 seconds traveling through North American skies before the air pressure pulverized it. Meteor experts say this is the first time in a half decade that such a bright event happened in Ontario.

The space rock most likely fragmented with pieces probably making it to the ground. Now the hunt is on for meteorites just 5 km NW of St. Thomas, Ontario. According to researchers the odds of finding a fragment of the meteor are small since it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack but the general public has the best shot.

Stay tuned for more details as they are made available.


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Glimpse Giant Asteroid Glide Through Taurus

Written by The Night Sky Guy on February 6, 2014 – 4:22 pm -

A giant asteroid, first seen 110 years ago, is making a rare appearance for backyard astronomers this month.

Usually so far away from Earth that only very large telescopes can spot it, 532 Herculina will be coming closer to Earth than usual, thereby allowing small backyard scopes to observe it as it sails through the horns of Taurus, the bull constellation in the evening skies.  Making the hunt even easier, the 230 km wide space rock will be gliding past a naked-eye star this week and then a famous supernova remnant- the Crab nebula.

Path of asteroid Herculina within Taurus Constellation in February 2014

Path of asteroid Herculina within Taurus Constellation in February 2014

Despite its high asteroid number – referring to the order of its discovery – Herculina probably ranks in the top 10 in terms of mass. The giant rock has also been at a center of a mystery surrounding the possibility of it having an orbiting satellite asteroid. Despite multiple observations by amateur astronomers watching Herculina during occultations of stars back in the late 1970’s and 80’s, Hubble Space Telescope failed to find any evidence of a moon when it looked in 1993.

Miss this encounter with Herculina and you will have to wait until 2019.

Check out my full viewer’s guide with finder charts at National Geographic News.


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Eastern Canada Meteor Event Confirmed

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 28, 2013 – 7:10 pm -

If skies would have been clear Tuesday night then skywatchers might have witnessed a bright fireball like this one.

If skies would have been clear Tuesday night then skywatchers might have witnessed a bright fireball like this one.

Yes that loud sonic boom and flash of light in the sky on Tuesday night at 7:47 pm EST was indeed a meteor racing across the southern Ontario, eastern Quebec region.

Prof.Peter Brown, a leading expert on meteor physics at the University of Western Ontario reports that infrasonic microphones, part of the USArray network of seismological detectors across the continent detected the series of shockwaves produced by the break up of the meteor as it traveled at supersonic speeds across the region.

“From a very casual examination of the records from five of these stations, it appears the fireball went roughly north-south passing almost right over the Island of Montreal,” said Brown in an email statement.

According to the data, the meteor had energy- on the order of less than a ton of TNT at most, indicating that the space rock might have weighed in the tens of kilograms category, explained Brown.

In comparison, the Russian meteor event in February measured some 20 meters across and had enerrgy equivalent of more than 500 kilotons of TNT.


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Possible Meteor Rattles Ontario-Quebec Skies

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 27, 2013 – 12:16 am -

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Folks from Ottawa, Ontario through Laval, Quebec are reporting a blue flash of light followed by a sonic boom that occurred around 7:50 pm ET, November 26th.

This may be signs of a meteor event and could indicate the stone – which could be anywhere in size from a sofa to compact car- may have fragmented with some bits making it to the ground.  Scientists will comb through all the observation reports along with any photo and video evidence so that they can triangulate the trajectory of the possible meteor fall.

Thankfully this appears to be a minor event since there are no reports of any damage -not like what we saw earlier this year occur in Siberia where a 20 meter wide, 60 ton space rock exploded in the atmosphere and injured 1500.


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King Tut Connection to Ancient Comet Crash

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 12, 2013 – 5:30 pm -

This is an artists rendition of the comet exploding in Earths atmosphere above Egypt.

This is an artist's rendition of the comet exploding in Earth's atmosphere above Egypt.

In the Sahara, a team of scientists claim to have found the first evidence of a comet directly impacting Earth.

About 28 million years ago a comet exploded over Egypt, creating a 3600°F (2000°C) blast wave that spread out over the desert below. The fiery shockwave melted the sand, forming copious amounts of yellow silica glass scattered over 2,300 square miles (6,000 square kilometers) of the Sahara.

Polished into the shape of a scarab beetle, a large piece of this glass found its way into a brooch owned by the famed Egyptian boy king Tutankhamen.

Read the rest of my comet story at National Geographic News.


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Video: Weekly Space News Interview

Written by The Night Sky Guy on October 21, 2013 – 2:34 pm -

Check out some of the cool space news hitting the wire this past week on my weekly CTV News Channel interview.


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Video: Weekly Space News Interview

Written by The Night Sky Guy on September 16, 2013 – 2:35 pm -

Check out some of the cool space news hitting the wire this past week on my weekly CTV News Channel interview.


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Perseid Meteor Shower Starts Peak Activity

Written by The Night Sky Guy on August 11, 2013 – 2:04 pm -

Warm summer nights and awe-inspiring shooting stars are an unbeatable combination!

That’s why skywatchers look forward to the annual Perseid meteor shower. Visible with the naked eye from the city to cottage country, dozens of “shooting stars” will light up the late-night skies. With the waxing crescent moon setting below the horizon in the early evening, the peak dates of August 11th through the 13th, this cosmic light show will surely put on an impressive display. Skywatchers get to see a flurry of shooting stars start 10 pm with rates increasing until pre-dawn hours. Anywhere from 20 to 80 shooting stars per hour depending on local sky conditions and amount of light pollution.

Get your full observer’s guide at National Geographic News

Here also is my Night Sky episode that talks all about the shower…


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Russian Meteor Blast Was Surprisingly Big

Written by The Night Sky Guy on July 6, 2013 – 6:00 am -

Meteor streaking across the sky in Russia. Courtesy of Tumblr

Meteor streaking across the sky in Russia. Courtesy of Tumblr

Earlier this year in February the world had a wake-up call when a giant 17 ton rock from space entered the atmosphere in Siberia and created a giant air-blast that literally was felt around the world.

A new study was released this week that analyzed this meteor impact and the results show that when the hypersonic meteor imploded in the upper atmosphere, it created a shockwave that propagated across the globe – not once but twice.

Find out how this big blast ranks in terms of meteor encounters in recent history and how often such cosmic events may occur, in my story for National Geographic News.


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