Did Earth encounter pieces of an alien visitor Wednesday night? Apparently so! It appears tiny pieces of Comet Hartley 2 may have presented a spectacular and startling sky show across the country. NASA meteor experts had predicted it was a long shot, but the evenings of November 2nd and 3rd might display a meteor shower from dust which puffed off this visiting comet as it passed within twelve million miles of Earth. And indeed, the Center for Astrophysics has collected several sightings of bright meteors called fireballs, which result when comet dust burns up in Earth’s atmosphere.
Helga Cabral in Seascape, California, reported after 9 pm Wednesday night, “I saw a bright white ball and tail, arcing towards the ocean. It was quite beautiful and it looked like it was headed out to sea and so picture perfect it could have been a movie!” Three thousand miles away just north of Boston, Teresa Witham witnessed a similar cosmic event.
“I was in the Revere area about 7:15 last night, driving north on Route 1, when a brilliant object with a tail passed in front of me — very similar in appearance to a shooting star but it appeared much lower to the Earth than a typical shooting star would be. If it weren’t for the fact that I had my daughter with me, I’d begin to believe I’d imagined it.”
Comet Hartley 2 has put on quite a nice show for amateur astronomers over the past few weeks, sporting a vivid green coma or halo around it and a golden auburn tail of dust. NASA’s Deep Impact/EPOXI probe will present dramatic close-up images of the comet when it zooms past the nucleus on November 4th.
When a comet approaches the Sun, it heats up unevenly, throwing off dust, ice and bits of rock. When the Earth encounters some of this space debris, it is seen as a beautiful meteor shower.
“Many people don’t realize that the famous periodic meteor shower in August, the Perseids, is the remains of Comet Swift-Tuttle and the Orionids, appearing in late October, are leftovers from Comet Halley,” said Tim Spahr, Director of the Minor Planet Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA.
So for the next two evenings, we may see more of Comet Hartley 2. And if you have dark skies and a small telescope or binoculars, try to find Comet Hartley 2 itself. It will be near the bright star Procyon in the constellation Canis Minor near Orion the Hunter, which will be high overhead in the early hours before dawn.
- adapted from a news announcement from: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Tags: comet Hartley, meteor
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Take a look at this cool video compilation of the the green fireball seen over much of the U.S. Midwestern region last night. Police stations and the FAA got flooded with calls from eyewitnesses who saw this meteor shooting across the heavens and creating a big light show and even sonic boom heard across many states. No reports yet of any fragments making it to the ground.
Tags: fireball, meteor
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Tags: Geminids, meteor, meteor shower
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Looks like a few fragments from the September 25th fireball seen across Southern ontario have been found – in Grimsby, Ontario – exactly where the university researchers thought pieces would fall. But what is interesting is how and where they were found. In two separate finds, both rocks fell on private property. The first , weighing in at 46 grams smashed through an SUV windshield and the second fell on undisclosed private land. They are now in the hands of University of Western Ontario scientists who will be studying these ancient time capsules, they hope will help them understand a bit about the formation of our solar system nearly 5 billion years ago.
Check out some of the articles in the press:
CBC News Report from Friday Press conference held by UWO researchers; Grimsby meteorite on display
Tags: Grimsby, meteor, meteorite, Ontario
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Update October 13: A veteran meteorite hunter from Buffalo, NY got his hands on some local doppler radar data of the September 25th Ontario fireball and has created a streetmap of where meteorite recovery may be most promising. Check out the new, more precise localized hunt zone. Tip of the hat to spaceweather.com for this report.
Researchers at University of Western Ontario have a hunch that the September 25th Fireball seen in Ontario and Ohio may have rained down several kilograms of fragments. It was also clearly caught on all seven of the university’s all sky cameras. Check out the most spectacular footage from the Hamilton camera – you can see a bright light show right over the city. Watch carefully, at the end of the film you can see the fireball break up into individual fiery pieces. So now we know that their is a real chance of finding meteorites on the ground from this event….Here is what the UWO Meteor Physics Group is saying about the event and where you might look for pieces…
Meteorites may best be recognized by their dark and scalloped exterior, and are usually more dense than normal rock and will often attract a fridge magnet due to their metal content. In this fall meteorites may well occur in a small hole produced by their dropping into soil. Meteorites are not dangerous, but we request that any recovered meteorites be placed in a clean plastic bag or container and be handled as little as possible to preserve their scientific information.”
Phil McCausland, a postdoctoral fellow at Western’s Centre for Planetary Science & Exploration, is now working to get the word out amongst interested people who may be willing to see if they can spot any fallen meteorites.
“This particular meteorite fall, if any are found, is very important because its arrival was so well recorded. We have good camera records as well as radar and infrasound detections of the event, so that it will be possible to determine its orbit prior to collision with the Earth and to determine the energy of the fireball event,” says McCausland. “We can also figure out where it came from and how it got here, which is rare. In all of history, only about a dozen meteorite falls have that kind of record.”
If you have questions, observations or possible meteorites from this Sept. 25th event, please contact:
e-mail: pmccausl at uwo.ca
You can find the more video from the other cameras in the region and even cool computer animation the researchers put together that show the trajectory of the incoming meteor as it entered the atmosphere on their official webpage.
Tags: fireballs, meteor
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