Fireballs swarmed over the central section of the nation's sky from last Thursday into Sunday night. From what astronomers say, we may be in for even more in October as the large Orionid and minor Southern Taurid and Epsilon Geminid meteor showers take the stage.
A fireball lights the sky much more dramatically than an ordinary meteor. Fireballs emit as much light as the planet Venus, or even more. Not only bright, they're fast and often colorful. A very few generate noise (electrophonic sounds or a sonic boom).
Thursday marked the beginning of late September's heavenly deluge. Nine states reported big meteor sightings around 6:30 or 7 a.m. The American Meteor Society received nearly 700 reports on this fireball.
Friday night a larger fireball struck earth's upper atmosphere just after 11:30 p.m. Most reports located the meteor over central Indiana, but over a thousand people in 18 states reported seeing it. Police recorded the passage on a video dashboard cam.
About half of the observers said they saw the fireball break apart; less than a third heard a sonic boom with it. A TV report said that it was three feet in diameter and travelling over 100,000 miles per hour. The broadcast reported that parts of it apparently reached land at an unknown location.
On Saturday, Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environments Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, noted that a fireball "about the brightness of the crescent Moon," like Thursday night's, passed overhead around sunset. Students, parents, and spectators saw the object at a community event in Weaver, Alabama.
Melanie Witt, who caught it on video, described her sighting: "I am a band parent of the Cleveland High School Golden Force Marching Band and videoed the meteor at the band competition.... We first thought the band playing on the field had shot something into the sky as part of their show but everyone decided it was a meteor. It was an amazing sight!!!" Two more fireballs showed up on Saturday evening and Sunday evening.
Award-winning science writer Sandy Dechert covers environmental, health, and energy policy and issues. She has reported extensively on climate change and extreme weather disasters, including superstorm Sandy, the 2012-2013 drought, and the massive summer wildfires of the past decade. She also detailed events and policy at last fall's 18th UN climate change summit meeting in Doha, Qatar and has covered the progress of the Obama administration in this area.
You are welcome to reproduce this article in whole or in part provided you stipulate authorship by "Sandy Dechert for Examiner.com" and/or link to this page. If the article interests you, please "like" it, share or tweet, and/or send me a question or comment! To keep up with the most current news, subscribe here and Examiner will email you when I publish new articles. All pictures and quotations here remain the property of their respective owners. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tweet @sandydec for updates. Thanks for reading!