Sept 28/29/30 Meteors

The past two nights were a mixed bag. The night of the 28/29th was good with 24 meteors detected. Last night was plagued by cirrus all night long. That cut down on the number of meteors which could be seen.

Date           TotalTime  TOT  SPO  NTA  STA  DAU
2008-09-29 UT   10h 24m    24   20   1    3    0
2008-09-30 UT   10h 27h     5    3   0    0    2

TOT – total # of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
NTA – Northern Taurids
STA – Southern Taurids
DAU – δ-Aurigids (Delta Aurigids)

Sept 27/28 Meteors

Now those are the numbers we like to see. The Moon is near is New phase which means the entire night is dark. Also the nights are getting longer (that’s true for the Northern Hemisphere, nights are getting shorter in the Southern Hemisphere) which will increase the number of meteors detected every night.

Below is a video of the best meteor from last night. This one was seen at 12:46 am on 2008 Sept 28 over Tucson.

46 am over Tucson.

Date           TotalTime  TOT  SPO  NTA  STA  DAU
2008-09-28 UT   10h 24m    23   18   0    4    1

TOT – total # of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
NTA – Northern Taurids
STA – Southern Taurids
DAU – δ-Aurigids (Delta Aurigids)

Fireballs From Around the World – Sept 25-26

The past few days have seen a number of fireball reports being left in the comment sections from all over the world.

There does not appear to be anything in common between these sighting. Though fireballs are uncommon, they are not rare. If you spend enough time staring at the sky at night, you’re bound to see a spectacular one. As the Taurid meteor shower builds in intensity over the next month or two, many more fireballs should be seen.

Below is a quick summary of what was seen. All of the fireballs were caused by “space debris”, whether rocks or man-made, burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere at heights of 80-100 kilometers (50-60 miles).

Sept 25 – West Virginia

An orange/yellow fireball was sighted near Wheeling, West Virginia at 2 am EDT on Sept 25. The report was submitted by Courtney.

Sept 25 – Illinois/Ohio

Later the same morning at ~6:20 am EDT, Linda reported a fireball seen in Wapakoneta and St. Marys, Ohio. The multi-colored (white/yellow/orange) fireball traveled from the northeast towards the northwest and burned out (or terminated) overhead.

A posting to the ‘meteorobs‘ mailing list reports a probable sighting of this same meteor at ~5:30 CDT from Chicago, Illinois. Al Degutis saw a bright, slow-moving meteor move from just north of overhead to the eastern horizon. The time, direction of travel, and distance between Chicago and Ohio sightings suggest that this is the same object. A map of the 3 sightings is included below. Due to the difference in 3 hours, this fireball is not the same as the Wheeling meteor mentioned above.

Sighting of the Sept 25 fireball over Illinois and Ohio. Sighting are denoted by the red stars.

Sighting of the Sept 25 fireball over Illinois and Ohio. Sighting are denoted by the red stars.

Sept 25 – France/ Isle of Wight

Two reports from France and the Isle of Wight may be sightings of the same fireball. Sally Isaacs saw a fireball from the Isle of Wight at 10:15 GMT on the evening of Sept 25. One hour into a flight from Birmingham, UK to Milan, Italy, Lucy sighted a fireball moving from north to south. No time was given for this sighting but the  circumstances are close enough that the same object may have been seen.

Sept 25 – Louisiana

M Davey of Baton Rogue and Lisa Marie from southern Louisiana both saw a fireball over Louisiana at 11 pm CDT on Sept 25. Lisa Marie reported that other sighting were made offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. It was described as green-blue and moving East to West. At least one bright flare was reported.

Sept 26 – near Heathrow, England

Tim Allen, an Airbus A320 pilot, saw a nice fireball trailing sparks as he was heading into Heathrow airport at 10:30 pm GMT on Sept 26. The fireball moved from the northwest to the southeast.

Sept 26 – Florida

Bryan Tippetts reported a fireball over Tampa, Florida at 8:10 pm EDT on Sept 26. The fireball was seen in the eastern sky moving from north to south.

Sept 26 – Australia

Though there are were no reports of this fireball submitted to this blog, a posting on the Seesat-L (satellite watchers) mailing list states that many people witnessed a spectacular fragmenting fireball over Adelaide in South Australia. The event happened at 00:17 local time on Sept 26.

In this case, it was the re-entry and breakup of a Russian rocket upper stage which had launched 3 Glonass satellites a few days earlier. Glonass is the Russian equivalent of the American Global Positioning System (GPS) system.

Thanks again for all of the reports and keep them coming.

Sept 25/26/27 Meteors

The past two nights have been plagued by clouds and, in the case of the 25/26th, some light rain. Even considering the clouds, detections are less than the September average.

Date           TotalTime  TOT  SPO  NTA  STA  DAU
2008-09-26 UT    8h 26m     8    7   1    0    0
2008-09-27 UT    8h  6m    12    9   0    2    1

TOT – total # of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
NTA – Northern Taurids
STA – Southern Taurids
DAU – δ-Aurigids (Delta Aurigids)

Sept 24/25 Meteors and the Beginning of the Taurids

Last night marked the beginning of activity from the Taurid meteor shower complex. Regular readers have probably noticed that meteors from the Antihelion source were reported almost nightly, that is until last night. A brief summary of the Antihelion source is included in the “Sept 12/13th and Antihelion meteors” post. From that post…

“They appear to come from the part of the sky opposite the Sun and usually do not originate from any one specific comet. Over the millennia many comets have been releasing dust that are visible as meteors when they enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Over time this dust will move away from the orbit of their parent comet. The Antihelions can be thought of as orphan dust particles from 1000s of years worth of short-period comets whose perihelion (closest distance to the Sun) is within the Earth’s orbit (less than 1 AU or Earth-Sun distance). They are inbound particles headed towards their perihelion.”

There are times throughout the year when meteors from the Antihelion source are dominated by meteors released by a single comet. From late September through late November, meteors from Comet Encke will overwhelm the usual number of orphan Antihelions. Since it is very difficult to differentiate between Taurids and non-Taurid Antihelions (at least with my camera), all meteors from the Antihelion region of the sky will be cataloged as Taurids.

Future posts will address exactly what the Taurids are, why there are two branches of the Taurids (Northern and Southern), and why Comet Encke is one of the most enigmatic comets known.

Date           TotalTime  TOT  SPO  NTA  STA  DAU
2008-09-25 UT   10h 18m    20   18   1    0    1

TOT – total # of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
NTA – Northern Taurids
STA – Southern Taurids
DAU – δ-Aurigids (Delta Aurigids)

Sept 23/24 Meteors

Last night was another nice night with a good number of meteors. Four of the meteors may be members of the Delta Aurigid shower.

Date           TotalTime   TOT   SPO   ANT   DAU
2008-09-24 UT   10h 14m     21    16    1     4

TOT – total # of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions (meteors coming from the opposition region, opposite the direction of the Sun)
DAU – δ-Aurigids (Delta Aurigids)

Comet Giacobini in Pieces

Astronomers at Cordell-Lorenz Observatory in Sewanee, TN have reported that Comet Giacobini has split into at least three pieces. Comet 205P/Giacobini had been lost for ~111 years until it was rediscovered 2 weeks ago (see the previous post on Giacobini).

The detection of two very small pieces trailing the comet may provide an explanation for why the comet was recently rediscovered. It is likely Comet Giacobini is usually a faint comet and its current brightness may be caused by fresh ices being exposed after pieces of its surface broke off. Though this sounds dramatic it is likely that very little (less than 1% of the mass) of the main nucleus broke or split off. Splitting comets are uncommon but not very rare, with at least one split comet being observed every year.

Discovery images of the two new pieces can be found at the Cordell-Lorenze Observatory.

Fireballs over the Scotland/Ireland/England on Sept 20/22

Another round of fireball reports was submitted to this blog last night. Three fireballs were observed over England, Scotland and Ireland during the evenings of Sept 20 & 22.

The first fireball was seen at 23:16 BST on Sept 20 from Marlow, Buckinghamshire, UK. Marlow is located ~50km or 30 miles west of London. A detailed description can be found at the Wycombe Astronomical Society. It was described as a white slow-moving meteor with a brightness of -3 magnitudes (between the brightness of Jupiter and Venus). This looks like a natural meteor caused by a meteoroid. It is possible that it a piece of a re-entering satellite. Thanks to Ed Davies for calling attention to this sighting.

The second fireball was reported by Lucy from East Mersea in southeast England. She reported a fireball with 4 components around 8:30 PM on Sept 22. The description seems to suggest a fireball which has broken up. It could be either a natural meteor or a re-entering piece of man-made space junk.

The third fireball also occurred during the evening of Sept 22 at 9:30-9:40 PM. Largo (Hamilton, just outside of Glasgow in southwest Scotland) and Debbie (Islandmagee, County Antrim, Northern Ireland) both described a fireball moving from East to West. It was multi-colored with a tail. The East to West motion probably rules out a re-entering satellite so this one looks to be a natural meteor caused by a meteoroid or small asteroid.

A third report of this fireball has been submitted by Chris Day of Accrington, England. He described a white/yellow fireball which latest for at least 6 seconds. It moved from the West to the East before setting behind trees and buildings.

With 3 fireball sightings from the British Isles and the Sept 19th fireball over southern California, I’m sure everyone is wondering what’s going on?

Though very bright fireballs, such as the southern CA one, are rare, they occur nightly somewhere in the world. We don’t read much about them because they are usually missed. Most of the world is covered by oceans, or cloudy, or uninhabited, so we only hear of bright fireballs occurring over major population centers. Secondly, meteors with brightnesses comparable to the brightest planets, such as the Marlow meteor, probably occur nightly for any observer willing to spend all night staring at the sky. Since we are only outside and looking up for a fraction of the night we miss most of these as well.

There are many rare sights in the sky. But the more time you spend looking up, the more likely you are to see some of them.

Thanks again to everyone who submitted reports of fireballs. Keep sending them in.

Sept 22/23 Meteors

Some nights you get a lot, some nights not so many. After detecting 25 meteors the previous night, last night only turned up 11 meteors. I wouldn’t read too much into the change in detections from night to night. Based on what has been detected this month, I’d saw my system is finding 20 ± 10 meteors per night. So numbers between 10 and 30 meteors per night are the norm.

Date           TotalTime   TOT   SPO   ANT   DAU
2008-09-23 UT   10h 13m     11    9     1     1

TOT – total # of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions (meteors coming from the opposition region, opposite the direction of the Sun)
DAU – δ-Aurigids (Delta Aurigids)

Sept 21/22 Meteors

The weather continues to be great in Tucson. As the Moon passes its 3rd Quarter phase, sky conditions are improving for meteor observing. Last night was very productive with 25 meteors being detected. There were also a few nice ones in the mix and I will try to get videos of those posted soon.

Date                     TotalTime      TOT    SPO     ANT     DAU

2008-09-22 UT    10h 14m        25      24        0          1

TOT – total # of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions (meteors coming from the opposition region, opposite the direction of the Sun)
DAU – δ-Aurigids (Delta Aurigids)

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