In the Sky This Month – January 2009

This feature highlights a number of meteor showers, comets and asteroids which are visible during the month of January 2009. The month starts off with Mercury and Jupiter close together in the evening sky. January also has one major meteor shower, the Quadrantids on Jan 3/4.

Note: If anyone has pictures or observations of these objects/events and want to share them, send me a comment. I’ll post them here.

Planets

Venus rules the month of January. Located about 30-40 degrees above the southwest horizon, Venus is the brightest “star” in the sky for the first few hours of the night. Through a telescope, Venus appears like a brilliant half moon. The Moon will pass within 2.5 degrees of Venus on the night of the 30th.

Jupiter is located well below Venus in the west-southwest during the first week of January. After that Jupiter will be too close to the Sun to be seen.

Mercury is also visible a few degrees above Jupiter during the 1st week or so of January. It will be furthest from the Sun on the 4th and highest above the horizon on the 6th. By mid-month, Mercury will be too close to the Sun to be seen.

This month Saturn rises in the east around 11pm on the 1st and 9pm on the 31st. The best time to observe it, though, is when it is located directly overhead (5am on the 1st and 3am on the 31st). The Moon will pass close to Saturn on the night of the 15th.

Mars is still too close to the Sun to be seen.

Meteors

The month of January experiences 1 major shower, the Quadrantids, and only a few minor ones.

Sporadic Meteors

Sporadic meteors are not part of any known meteor shower. They represent the background flux of meteors. Except for the few days per year when a major shower is active, most meteors that are observed are Sporadics. This is especially true for meteors observed during the evening. During November, six (6) or so Sporadic meteors can be observed per hour from a dark moonless sky.

Major Meteor Showers

Quadrantids (QUA)

The Quadrantids are the best shower that you’ve probably never heard of. It’s bad enough that this shower peaks in the middle of winter in the northern hemisphere, but it is also named after a long defunct constellation. When first identified in the early 1800s, the meteors were observed to radiate from the small faint constellation of Quadrans Muralis (the Mural Quadrant). Unfortunately, the constellation didn’t make the cut when the official list of 80 constellations was set in 1930. Today, Quadrans Muralis and the radiant of the Quadrantids can be found north of the constellation of Bootes.

Another strike against observing the Quadrantids is their short duration. Showers, like the Perseids and Orionids, produce high rates of meteors for a few days near their maximum. The Quadrantids are only highly active for 12-24 hours. As a result, the shower can be missed if the peak does not coincide with your early morning observing.

This year there are 2 predictions for the peak. Based on past Quadrantid peaks, the International Meteor Organization predicts a peak on January 3 at 12h 50m UT. That’s 5:50 am MST or 4:50 am PST. If this prediction is correct, the Quadrantids will be best over western North America and probably pretty good for all of North America.

A second prediction is based on work by Jeremie Veubaillon and published in a chart in Peter Jenniskens’s book “Meteor Showers and Their Parent Comets”.It predicts an earlier peak on January 3 at ~1:00 UT. That’s in the early evening for North America at a time when the shower will not be easily visible. The Veubaillon prediction is based on all of the Quadrantids having been released during the break-up of a comet in 1490.

Last year rates reached as high as ~80 meteors per hour under a dark sky. Like most meteor showers, the Quadrantids are only observable early in the morning a few hours before dawn. The International Meteor Organization will post up-to-date observations of the activity level at their ZHR Live site.

Where do the Quadrantids come from? According to Peter Jenniskens, the Quadrantids are the result of an outburst of material or even the break-up of a comet in 1490. This comet was observed by Chinese, Korean and Japanese astronomers. In 2003, a new asteroid was discovered named 2003 EH1. It now appears that 2003 EH1 is either the same as the comet seen in 1490 or the largest surviving piece of that comet.

Minor Meteor Showers

Minor showers produce so few meteors that they are hard to notice above the background of regular meteors.

Coma Berenicids (COM)

The Coma Berenicids are a minor shower with rates of ~5 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower is active from mid-December to late January as its radiant moves from southern Ursa Major through Coma Berenices and into Virgo. The shower may have been created by Comet C/1913 I (Lowe) a retrograde Halley-type comet. That is assuming Comet Lowe ever existed. There are some doubts that the comet was real since other observers were not able to observe the comet.

According to Peter Jennisken’s book “Meteor Showers and Their Parent Comets” a number of meteor outbursts seen between the years of 609 AD and 764 AD may have caused by this shower.

Additional information on these showers and other minor showers not included here can be found at the following sites: Robert Lunsford’s Meteor Activity Outlook, Wayne Hally’s and Mark Davis’s NAMN Notes, and the International Meteor Organization’s 2008 Meteor Shower Calendar.

Comets

Naked Eye Comets (V < 6.0)

There are no comets bright enough to be seen without binoculars or a telescope.

Binocular Comets (V < 8.0)

Comet C/2007 N3 (Lulin)

The brightest comet of the month can be seen low in the southeast right before dawn. Starting the month near the “head” of Scorpius, the comet will move into and cross the constellation of Libra during the month. Comet Lulin was discovered by the Lulin Sky Survey in Taiwan on 2007 July 11. At the time the comet was located beyond the orbit of Jupiter.

The comet will be closest to the Sun on 2009 January 10 at 1.21 AU from the Sun. It will be closest to Earth in late-February when it will be only 0.41 AU from us. At that time the comet may be as bright as 4th magnitude making it an easy object for binoculars and small telescopes. In fact, the comet will be visible to the naked eye as a small faint fuzzball from dark sites.

The comet is currently around magnitude 7.5 which makes it an easy object for binoculars and small telescopes from a dark sky. By the end of the month, it should be around magnitude 6 and perhaps visible to naked eye observers in very dark skies.

A finder chart for Comet Lulin can be found at Comet Chasing.

A nice collection of images can be found at the VdS-Fachgruppe Kometen (Comet Section of Germany) and Seiichi Yoshida’s Comet Homepage.

Small Telescope Comets (V < 10.0)

Comet C/2006 W3 (Christensen)

This comet was discovered over 2 years ago on 2006 November 18 by Eric Christensen of the Catalina Sky Survey north of Tucson. At the time the comet was located at 8.7 AU from the Sun which is nearly the distance of Saturn. The comet continues to move closer to the Sun and Earth and is currently 3.8 AU from the Sun and 3.4 AU from the Earth.

The comet is currently around magnitude 10.2 and will slowly brighten during the month.  It will be traveling south through the constellation of Lacerta and is nicely positioned for evening observing. I was able to observe the comet visually with my backyard 12″ reflecting telescope in November. Being small and condensed, the comet was fairly easy to see.

The comet will continue to brighten as it approaches perihelion at a still rather distant 3.12 AU from the Sun on 2009 July 6. At the time, the comet will be 8th magnitude and visible in many smaller backyard telescopes and even binoculars from dark sites. Christensen should remain bright enough to see in modest sized backyard telescopes for all of 2009.

A finder chart for Comet Christensen can be found at Comet Chasing.

A nice collection of images can be found at the VdS-Fachgruppe Kometen (Comet Section of Germany) and Seiichi Yoshida’s Comet Homepage.

Comet C/2006 OF2 (Broughton)

Similar to Comet C/2006 W3 (Christensen), C/2006 OF2 (Broughton) is another intrinsically bright comet with a large perihelion distance. It was the 2nd comet discovered by amateur astronomer John Broughton of Queensland, Australia. He first saw it on 2006 July 17 with a CCD-equipped 0.25-m telescope. At first, no cometary activity was detected and the object was classified as an asteroid. In late September of 2006, I was able to find evidence of cometary activity on images taken with the University of Arizona 1.54-m and the object was reclassified as a comet.

Comet Broughton passed perihelion on 2008 September 15 at a distance of 2.43 AU from the Sun. Based on its prior brightness behavior, it was not expected to be brighter than 10th magnitude. In the past few weeks, the comet has experienced a minor outburst in brightness. At its current magnitude of 9.8, the comet can be seen in large backyard telescopes. Moving south through the constellation of Auriga, the comet should fade as it moves away from both the Sun and Earth.

A finder chart for Comet Broughten can be found at Comet Chasing.

A nice collection of images can be found at the VdS-Fachgruppe Kometen (Comet Section of Germany) and Seiichi Yoshida’s Comet Homepage.

Comet 144P/Kushida

Comet Kushida was discovered by Japanese amateur astronomer Yoshio Kushida back on 1994 January 8. With an orbital period of 7.6 years, this year marks its 3rd appearance since discovery.

The comet was not expected to get brighter than magnitude 10 or 11 but recently observers have estimated it is as bright as magnitude 8.8. With perihelion this January 26 at 1.44 AU from the Sun, the comet may brighten a little more over the next few weeks. It is currently retrograding through western Taurus.

A finder chart for Comet Kushida can be found at Comet Chasing.

A nice collection of images can be found at the VdS-Fachgruppe Kometen (Comet Section of Germany) and Seiichi Yoshida’s Comet Homepage.

Comet 210P/Christensen

Yet another comet discovered by Eric Christensen may be visible in backyard scopes in January. This comet is a short-period comet with a period of 5.7 years. It is very faint except when close to the Sun. Perihelion occurred on December 19 at a distance of 0.53 AU from the Sun.

Alan Watson found Comet 210P/Christensen on images taken by the STEREO-B spacecraft on 2008 December 8 and 9. At the time, he thought the comet might be new until Maik Meyer suggested the STEREO comet was actually Comet 210P/Christensen. STEREO (which stands for Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) is a NASA mission to study the Sun and its immediate environment. Though not designed specifically to observe comets, its cameras have the ability to pick up bright comets close to the Sun. Quite often, these comets are too close to the Sun to be seen from Earth due to the scattering of sunlight by Earth’s atmosphere.

Though too close to the Sun to be seen from Earth, another spacecraft was able to see the comet as it sped past the Sun. Observations by the SOHO spacecraft estimated that the comet reached a brightness of 6th magnitude. The comet may still be bright enough for large backyard telescopes during the 1st half of January. The comet should be 9th-10th magnitude as it speeds through the constellation of Ophiuchus in the pre-dawn sky.

Asteroids

Binocular and Small Telescope Asteroids (V < 10.0)

(1) Ceres

Ceres is the biggest asteroid in the Main Belt with a diameter of 585 miles or 975 km. It is so big that it is now considered a Dwarf Planet. Classified as a carbonaceous (carbon-rich) Cg-type asteroid, there are suggestions that it may be rich in volatile material such as water. Some even propose that an ocean exists below the surface. Ceres is one of two targets for NASA’s Dawn spacecraft which is scheduled to visit it in 2015. This month Ceres is located in Leo brightening from magnitude 7.9to 7.2.

A finder chart (needs to be flipped upside down for Northern Hemisphere observers) can be found at the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand. Finder chart for Ceres from Heavens Above.

(2) Pallas

Pallas is also a carbonaceous asteroid though with a slightly bluish B-type spectrum. Due to its high inclination (tilt of its orbit with respect to Earth’s orbit) of 34 degrees it is a difficult target for future spacecraft missions. Pallas is large with dimensions of 350x334x301 miles or 582x556x501 km. This month it moves through the far southern constellations of Caelum and Eridanus. It fades from  magnitude 8.0 to 8.2 over the course of the month.

A finder chart (needs to be flipped upside down for Northern Hemisphere observers) can be found at the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand. Finder chart for Pallas from Heavens Above.

(4) Vesta

Though not as large as Ceres, Vesta is more reflective making it the brightest asteroid in the Main Belt. Vesta is peculiar in that it appears to have evidence of volcanism on its surface. Similar to the Moon, Vesta may be covered with large expanses of frozen lava flows. It is classified as a V-type asteroid and is the only large asteroid with this classification. Many of the smaller V-type asteroids are chips of Vesta blasted off it by past asteroid and comet impacts. Vesta is similar in size to Pallas with dimensions of 347x336x275 miles or 578×560×458 km. Vesta will also be visited by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft which will arrive in 2010. On October 30, Vesta was at opposition (directly opposite from the Sun in the sky) and at its brightest. This month Vesta will fade from magnitude 7.6 to 8.1 as it moves from Pisces into Cetus.

A finder chart (needs to be flipped upside down for Northern Hemisphere observers) can be found at the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand. Finder chart for Vesta from Heavens Above.

(27) Euterpe

Euterpe was the 27th asteroid discovered when it was first seen in 1853. It is an S-type asteroid with a stoney or silicate composition. With a diameter of 75 miles (125 km) it much smaller than Ceres, Pallas or Vesta. The reason it can get as bright as them is due to its orbit which brings it closer to the Sun and Earth. This month Euterpe will be roughly 1 AU from Earth and 2 AU from the Sun.

This month Euterpe will brighten from magnitude 9.7 to 8.9 as it moves from Leo into Cancer. The asteroid will be at its brightest in early February at magnitude 8.8.

A finder chart (needs to be flipped upside down for Northern Hemisphere observers) can be found at the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand. Finder chart for Euterpe from Heavens Above.

(40) Harmonia

[Thanks to Sam Millar for calling attention to this asteroid.]

Harmonia just barely makes the cut this month. Starting the month at magnitude 9.9, it peaks in brightness on January 12 at 9.5. By the end of the month, Harmonia is back below 10th magnitude.

Similar to Euterpe, Harmonia is a stoney silicate-rich S-type in the inner Main Belt. At opposition on the 12th, it will be 2.30 AU from the Sun and 1.31 AU from Earth.

Finder chart for Harmonia from Heavens Above.

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About Carl Hergenrother
I am a professional astronomer specializing in the study of comets, asteroids and meteors. This blog will focus on my professional and amateur work in this field

96 Responses to In the Sky This Month – January 2009

  1. Samuel Millar says:

    As regards asteroids, the asteroid (40) Harmonia should be visible in small telescopes this month. It reaches opposition on January 12 in Gemini.
    5 Jan +9.8
    15 Jan +9.6
    25 Jan +10.0

    There’s also (192) Nausikaa (don’t ask!) in Cancer, opposition 30 January.
    5 Jan +11.0
    15 Jan +10.7
    25 Jan +10.5
    Data: Astronomy Now magazine.
    Happy New Year!
    SAM

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Sam,

      Thanks for calling attention to these objects. I added Harmonia to the January 2009 write-up. I try to include all asteroids that get brighter than V = 10.0 unless it is something special like a close approaching near-Earth asteroid.

      Happy New Year,
      - Carl

  2. meee says:

    im sorrry. but jan 5 2009 at about 12 15am the night sky turned to a very light turqiouse blue. for a few seconds. it went back dark then went light blue then a white. then again went dark. did anyone else notice this by any chance. it happened right outside my window. my sister even saw it. scientific reasoning by any chance?

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi meee,

      It’s hard to say what you saw. It appears that there must have been something very bright outside or in the sky that was just outside your view. It is possible that if a very bright fireball or meteor could light up the sky that way. In fact, fireballs can experience many bright flashes. Each flash could light up the sky and the ground as bright as day. The whole things would only last for a few seconds.

      I’ll keep my eye out for other reports. Where are you located? City and state are more than good enough since fireballs can be seen over hundreds of miles.

      Regards,
      - Carl

  3. sveinung says:

    Picture of Venus (most likely) taken on first days of januar in Norway 2009: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_7ZIANRoLeKw/SWDqkboWbvI/AAAAAAAAB1A/Ufa6rEWbgfA/s1600-h/test_lukketid027.jpg

  4. adrian elvy says:

    Hello
    I am new to this but I witnessed somethinng amazing in the sky above Sri Lanka early morning 3rd Janaury 2009. It was about 1am local time and a huge firball appeared in the sky I think heading west to east or possible north to south. This was an amazing sight and can only be likened to an aircrat burning up in the sky at great speed. I’d love to know what this was.

  5. tami says:

    did any one else see what appeared to be a meteor January 18th 2009 around 540pm in San Diego Ca?

  6. Haley says:

    tami – yes! Although I was in Pacific Palisades at the time. I can’t find any info, but it looked like a meteor streaking from N to S around that time. Does anyone know anything about it?

  7. Sofia says:

    Hello, i got in this page becuase i wanted to share what i saw last night. I was driving about 4 in the morning when, suddenly, i saw a huge fireball in the sky for about7 second and dissapeared afterward. Oh my god!! this was amazing. That fireball had a tail and i figured out that it was a meteor. For me, that is the most beautiful thing that i have ever seen. Yes Tami, i saw it last night. I live in San Francisco.

  8. Kirstin says:

    Yes. I saw what appeared to be a meteor on the 18th of january 2009 just after 10pm. I live in Wanaka, New Zealand. It was heading south. I am amazed that I have not heard anything about it on the news as it was a spectacular sight.

  9. Michelle says:

    Yes Tami I saw a fireball with a tail last night approximately 5:40 pm
    in Trabuco Canyon/Coto de Caza, CA. It was amazing! I also saw a fireball last Wednesday at 6:10 pm too. Two fireballs in less than a week – very exciting!

  10. John says:

    I saw a small object January 18 around 5:40 PM in Santa Clarita, CA — traveling at extremely high rate of speed and about a 30 degree angle, basically in a north to south direction. It had a fiery head and a very long blue & white tail. The one I saw was very small and it “vaporized” (just extinguished into nothing) just a few hundred feet above ground. It made a pronounced “whooshing” (like something racing very fast), and that’s what caused me to look up. Definitely not a bottle rocket. LOL And judging from the rate of speed and the heat it must have been burning to emit the blue & white tail, probably a small meteor chunk. It was incredible to see something moving so fast, that close to the ground…

  11. leigh says:

    There is an object in the South Eastern sky that has been there about 4 days that we noticed. It glows and changes from red to greann lights and blue. Then it appears to be bursting with high volocity white light like it is going to explode then it calms back dow. I do not own any hitech stuff to capture so I am here to ask that someone film it. Or tell me what it is.

    By the way I saw the meator on the 19th of January about 5:40pm shoot from N to South in the sky it was spectacular!

  12. leigh says:

    It was the 18th when I saw the metor

    RETRACTION.

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Leigh,

      What you are seeing is Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. It is low in the southeast during the early evening.

      Sirius is a brilliant white/blue star. But when it is located low in the sky, the turbulence and differential refraction of the atmosphere can cause it to appear in almost any color. Through a telescope, it can look like a disco ball. constantly changing color. It is one of the most impressive things to see in the sky.

      - Carl

  13. Em says:

    In London last night about 11-12ish I saw the strangest thing! Above me vaugely in the squashed W formation of stars three orangey red lights, not too bright but visable with the naked eye were bobbing around in the sky! They seemed to interact with eachother high in the sky in fade off in a northerly direction. Any suggestions as to what it could be?

  14. leigh says:

    Thank you soo much Carl! My husband and I thrilled to know. I studied quite a bit sky last night and almost drew that conclusion but still was unsure.

  15. leigh says:

    Carl yes it is impressive! Beautiful.

  16. leigh says:

    Em_ I live Las Vegas Nevada and my whole has witnessed thed dancing balls in the sky a few times. Me twice. They are called “Clusters” sometimes and they defiantely interact with eachother. There movements are so far not known to man as WE KNOW OF so I just call the UFB. Unidentified Flying Balls. Until further study is done. lol Seriously we have seen them. They are brilliant in sky movement and seem to blend into eachother at times.
    We have always seen them around 1:30pm-2:30pm and they last sometimes 30 minutes in the air.

  17. CAWSTAR says:

    Ya i saw sirius too then. Just now. I thought maybe it was an exploding star. I was gonna use binoculars but could probly not see it. It was really cool.

  18. CAWSTAR says:

    Leave a comment on this one cause it will notify me via email. Dint reply on last comment. Reply on this 1

  19. leigh says:

    cawstar I actually called it “The death of a star!” Yeah this is a neat sight.

  20. leigh says:

    cawstar I actually called it “The death of a star!” Yeah this is a neat sight.

  21. lesley says:

    On Monday evening around 630 pm I was driving North on Powers blvd in Colorado springs. My daughter and I looked up and both saw what we thought was a low flying plane or helicopter, maybe about to land on a nearby hospital roof. BUT it was going VERY fast, very low in the sky. It was heading S to N and it was a very bright bright, white then seemed to turn green and literally Disappear. WAY too fast to be any normal space craft we’ve ever seen. No tail either.
    Looked online and see no reports by anyone.
    Any ideas?

  22. lesley says:

    that was monday evening, Jan. 19th, 2009. Thanks.
    And we were not near the hospital so I ruled out medivac copter plus the thing Disappeared!

  23. Debbe - 18 January 2009, 10pm says:

    A group of five of us all saw a bright red ball light with a long white tail travelling very fast from south to north in the south eastern sky just after 10pm on Sunday 18th January 2009. We were in Kaiteriteri in the Nelson region of New Zealand and were standing outside between the Beached Whale Cafe and the playground when we saw it.. It was at a very flat angle say 60 degrees heading down towards earth. I had yelled ‘comet’ and pointed to it when I first saw it. We all watched it for about five seconds before it disappeared behind the Kaiteriteri hill.

  24. leigh says:

    Debbe awesome! I looked all night and saw nothing but the “Disco Star”

  25. Sam says:

    I am in Nashville, TN and I saw what I first thought might be an aircraft but quickly realized it was moving very very fast and had a tail streaming behind it (as I imagine a comet might have). It was mostly brilliant white with the tail having momentary flickers of blue. I assumed it to be a meteor or comet of some kind. It appeared to be moving southwest across the sky. Any idea what I might have seen?

  26. Sam says:

    I saw this site in Nashville around 6:30PM Central time.

  27. BB says:

    I saw what looked like a meteor tonight, Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 8:27 p.m. It had a reddish tint to the tail. I don’t know what direction it was traveling. Did anyone else see it?

  28. BB says:

    I forgot to say…I saw the possible meteor in Marietta, GA (metro Atlanta area) 8:27 p.m. eastern.

  29. I saw something last night @ 10:30pm. It was crazy. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was driving south on US41 from Land O Lakes Florida to Tampa Fl. Anyways, out of the corner of my eye, off to the left, I saw a HUGE object falling/moving across the sky. It was so bright, like a bright white/blue light. Again, this thing looked HUGE!! I really expected to see something online about it… this is the first page i’ve visited. At first I didn’t know what I saw… I was driving… when I saw it, it was only for a second and it was gone. It was so big though, I’m sure everyone driving around me saw it.

  30. Jess says:

    I saw the same bright light over in boynton beach florida around the same I thought it might be on the news too! but apparently not. It was big and very bright it looked unreal…

  31. leigh says:

    I am looking online for any more sightings. jess and Matt the Brat. It had to be reported somewhere.

  32. leigh says:

    UFO Events and Cases
    There are certain cases and events that stand out more than others… those that had an impact on the world, and are still being researched, and talked about today. Here are a few of the most famous UFO events.

    Read more
    Famous UFO Cases and Events
    British Release Secret UFO Files
    Astronaut Says: UFOs are Real
    A Wave of UFOs over Pennsylvania
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    UFO Sighting Reports
    Thursday January 22, 2009
    Welcome to another session of UFO sighting reports. This week we have a report from one of our readers who lives in northern Ireland, as well as reports from Florida, Indiana, and Nebraska

    I FOUND THIS BY GOOGLE.

  33. leigh says:

    THIS WAS SEEN BY THRESS STATES AND IN NORTHERN IRELAND.
    JAN 22 2009

  34. dynea boyd says:

    we see it in northwest alabama. 8:25pm central time

  35. dynea boyd says:

    it appears to have moved out of our site now. 8:28pm central time

  36. Hensley says:

    At approximately 2:30am on January 23, 2009, I saw a blue-green glowing streak in the sky above Denton, Texas. The streak moved away from me in the sky, lasted about 1 full second, and would have been approximately 4 inches if it were at arms length. I looked directly at the sky where it happened just before it occurred. Does anyone know what this could be? I have seen meteor showers before, and “shooting stars”, but perhaps this was a comet or something? Let me know, please.

  37. Faraday72 says:

    South Australia Adelaide – Thursday 22 January 12:30 am few friends and myself were having a couple of drinks after work when what looked initially like a ships flare bright red lit up the back yard – we were outside and saw the meteor streak overhead from west to east, several minutes later (and possibly unrelated) we heard a very deep thud – we joked about waiting for the tsunami, well I joked, my friends looked kind of worried. Seen nothing reported in the local papers as yet about this so I thought I’d post it

  38. Aaron Jones says:

    My wife and I were driving south west just after 10pm 18th January 2009 in nelson nz and saw what looked like a comet moving from about north to south across the sky. I didn’t think it was a meteor to begin with as it appeared to be moving horizontally where all the other bits and pieces i’ve seen falling to earth have been pretty much straight down. Would love to find out an official explaination. This was very bright (brighter than the iridium flareups i saw last year) and had a visible tail of at least 5 seconds, this was not long after sunset and it took maybe 45 seconds to move from about a quarter of the the way from the right hand limit of my vision until it went out of sight behind a cloud and then the richmond hills. if anyone wants to contact me nuke d0t me at xtra d0t co d0t nz .

  39. Aaron Jones says:

    Sorry i forgot to tick the box that said notify me if anyone else replies :)

  40. Melissa says:

    I was wondering about the star in the sky that is very bright and i know it is not a star because it does not twinkle.
    But it looks like it is getting closer. And sometimes when i stare at it long enough i it has like a red ring around it. What is it?
    is it Venus?
    and it has been in the sky for a while now. I have seen it there since december
    And i also i seen that picture of venus. I always thought that was the moon.. haha

  41. Melissa says:

    i did the same thing. Ticking box now.. lol

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Melissa,

      Yes, you have been seeing Venus. For the next few weeks, it is as high and bright as it will get for awhile. Starting in mid-February you will notice Venus getting lower and lower every night. By the end of March it will no longer be visible in the evening. After that it will reappear in the morning sky.

      Thanks for posting,
      - Carl

  42. Glory says:

    We’re in Montana, and we also seen a very bright star in the sky southwest of us. I’m not good at astronomy, but our whole family was starring at it on our way home. It’s beautiful, and we were wondering what it is as well….star or planet.

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Glory,

      Thanks for writing.

      The very bright star in the SW during the evening is the planet Venus. Venus is nearly as bright and as high in the sky as it can get. It will be easy to observe for another month before it starts to move closer to the Sun. By the end of March, Venus will pass the Sun and move from the evening to the morning sky.

      - Carl

  43. Melissa says:

    Oh I have another question..
    A couple weeks ago around 1:30 am i was looking outside at the moon and it was large and reddish orange I was staring at it and i watched it set but it set within 3 minutes. I mean it like dropped really fast and it was pretty high in the sky too. i wish i had of recorded it because the speed was unbelievable . My question is how come it went down so fast and why was it red and so large?

  44. Sam says:

    its about 1:30-2:00pm DST on january 26th. i live in south australia, and i can see an object ENE and about 45 degrees in the sky, its moving in a westerly direction. i looked at it through some binoculars and it seems to have a small tail, so i think its a comet or something. whats really strange is that i can see it in the daytime, and it is a hot sunny day! i have no idea what it is, does anyone have any idea? where i live has no light pollution whatsoever, and no smog, so i can see it very clearly. i live about 35 degrees south of the equator. if anyone knows what this is, can they please reply? i have searched, and i cant find a thing. thanks.

  45. Sam says:

    oh yeah, and i first thought it was a star and it wasnt moving. then as i watched it, it slowly moved, probably at the same speed the sun would move during the day, just moving because of the rotation of the earth.

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Sam,

      Great observation! Based on your description (speed, brightness, location in the sky), you have been observing the planet Venus. Most people don’t realize that Venus is actually rather easy to see even in bright daylight but only if you know exactly where to look and can focus on it.

      The reason why Venus isn’t seen more often has to do with our eyes. Our eyes need to be focused at infinity (meaning it is focused on distant objects). Unless there are clouds in the sky or the Moon is nearby, our eyes have a tendency to stay focused on closer stuff like trees and buildings. Also our eyes only come to a good focus near the very center of our field of view. If you look at the edge of your computer screen, notice how none of the text in the middle of the screen is in focus.

      - Carl

  46. Jill says:

    Its about 10:39 and I just seen a what looked like a falling star however it was much larger than I have ever seen and was very blue. Does anyone have any idea what this could be?

  47. Jill says:

    Its about 10:39pm and I just seen a what looked like a falling star however it was much larger than I have ever seen and was very blue. Does anyone have any idea what this could be?

  48. HaK says:

    It is about 9:30 PST and I just witnessed something very similar to what Jill saw, except I think we are many time zones away, as it is the 26th here still. A very bright, blue tinged “fire trail” plummeted along the skyline, and even seemed to attempt entering the atmosphere but was burning up as it did so. Though the angle made it look like it made land contact at some point in the distance, it may have just been following the curvature of the earth.

  49. HaK says:

    Oops, just realized the time date stamp is set by the site, not where the person is.

  50. Laura Olson says:

    My daughter saw it at 9:30 p.m. PST. Anyone know what it was yet? A fireball, meteor? UFO ;) But seriously, she said it had sparks coming off the tail and headed straight down, facing SW. We are in Mountain View, California.

  51. HaK says:

    Laura- Same thing, headed SW. San Jose, California.

  52. Laura Olson says:

    She said it was red in color. Can’t find anything else yet. Perhaps they should send Will Smith to investigate like he did in the movie Independence Day. Ha ha. Seriously though, it probably was just a large meteor. Wonder if it hit anywhere?

  53. HaK says:

    Just asked my boyfriend what color he thought it was, and hes saying blueish but closer to green, where I saw a blue/silver color. Glad to know were ALL color blind though, right? ;-)

  54. Laura Olson says:

    Ha ha. Apparently. I went on yahoo questions and a responder said it was probably a fireball.

  55. Laura H. says:

    I live in north Georgia and I saw this same object last night. Was sitting in my living room and at the very last second before it moved beyond the trees behind my house I saw it. I described it to my husband as blue-ish green and it definately had light trailing behind it. It was moving eastwardly in the sky (approximately).

  56. Laura H. says:

    Was this a fireball producing asteroid like I have read about now (because it looked rather large)? The sight of this mysterious thing has me so intrigued… I can’t stop reading about anything related right now. and just like someone else said about seeing sparks coming off of it – I didn’t think it was a solid/uniform ray of light coming off of it, more like fire or sparks was definately a better way of describing it.

  57. HaK says:

    Laura H- I agree that it wasn’t a solid trail. It was more like flames/sparks that didn’t have an exact shape to them. I am highly intrigued as well and have been trying to find more information, but other than here, I have found no other mention of our fireball.

    I have been watching videos about the MassPike Fireball earlier this month, and it definitely compares to what I saw there, just with a little less “sky lighting” effects like that one had.

    I want to know if these are really this much of a common occurance, I thought it was a once in a life time type thing, but this is already the 2nd fireball I have witnessed. (unfortunately I only viewed the tail end of the other, and I couldn’t figure out exactly what I saw because it was just a glimpse.) This one last night was much more spectacular!

  58. mikia wright says:

    hak thats a lot of writing i wish i had the time to do that lol lol lol

  59. Kris says:

    Monday evening Jan 26th 2009, around 9:30pm, in Sacramento CA, two of us saw a bright object falling from low in the sky and disappearing into the horizon a little west of due south. One of us described seeing sparks trailing behind it. It really caught our attention because it was so low, it lasted longer and was bigger and brighter than shooting stars we have seen. It was so unusual to us that I started searching the internet and found that others had seen it, but I am interested in knowing what it was.

  60. Laura H. says:

    Kris- Hey there, well, you definately found a place where others saw the same thing, but I don’t think any of us have heard definatively what it was. What I think was interesting,too, was you and others saw it in California and said it looked so low and yet others including myself saw it so far east of there, and I also thought it looked really low.

  61. My partner and I saw an incredibly big (for a star or a planet) and bright object on the western sky around 9PM Adelaide time (CST) on 29 January. It looked as it was getting bigger and smaller, but that was probably due to the clouds and it looked like it was moving, althought slowly. It was whitish and around 10% of the size of the young moon we had that night. Could Venus be this bright?

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Bob,

      Yes, what you are seeing is Venus. Venus is about as bright as it can get right now. It will be brightest on Feb 20 when it will be ~10% brighter than it is now.

      Venus will continue to ride high in the evening sky until mid-March when it will rapidly move closer to the Sun. By April, Venus will only be visible in the morning sky.

      - Carl

  62. Drew Sensabaugh says:

    Jill,

    What area of the US do you live, I live in NC and saw the same thing Mon night (Jan 26) @ around the same time. Looked like a falling star but very big and very bright blue. I watched it fall a long way until it dissappeared over the tree line, still very bright.

  63. Laura H. says:

    I keep checking back to see if anyone has any concrete information about our blue light in the sky, but to my dismay, there is nothing posted to that effect. Carl, can you give us some commentary on it? Please:)

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Laura,

      Sorry to keep you waiting in suspense.

      What time did you see it? There is a report of a fireball seen from Cherokee, NC on Jan 26 at ~10:15 EST. Cherokee is just over the border from GA so this fireball was visible in your location. It was reported to be blue and as bright as the Moon. The report also states that it was moving east and broke up in flight. If the time is right, it is a good match to what you saw. Note, this is not related to the fireballs seen over CA since they are too far away to be seen in GA.

      It is most likely that the fireball was caused by a small asteroid (probably no bigger than a baseball) burning up in the atmosphere. Even though they may appear close, the fireball was probably 35-60 miles above the ground.

      Hopefully in the future as more and more meteor cameras are set up, we not only be able to answer the questions of what caused each fireball but even determine where in space it came from.

      If you’d like to make an official report of the fireball, visit
      http://www.amsmeteors.org/fireball/report.html

      The form is easy to fill out and you don’t need any real knowledge of the sky.

      Thanks for reading the site and posting your observation,
      - Carl

  64. mel mac says:

    Hi, I live in regina,saskatchewan.canada. tonight feb,1 2009, around 7;45 I saw a bright white light that moved faster then you can blink, nfrom the north to south it was not a falling star way to fast.what would it be

  65. JMac says:

    Hello,
    Last Night February 1, 2009 I saw a bright white light in the sky, it really caught my attention because I’m in Chicago and I dismissed it as an airplane at first. I was walking home, eastbound and it was in the sky southwest of me. I was able to stare at it from about 7:10 PM until I got all the way home at 7:40 PM. This bright white light was stationary from my point of view. It was a bright white consistant stationary light in the southeastern sky over Chicago, IL. Can anyone tell me what I saw please???

  66. Pam & Neighbors says:

    It is 8:32PM here in Rock Hill, South Carolina. We have been standing outside watching a big bright white light in the westen sky. It appears to shoot off red and blue flames at times and it looks like it has a tail. It also appears to be stationary. Could this be a meteror burning out? It seems to change shape when watching through binoculars and the colors coming off the outside of this light change shape constantly. Anyone know what this is for sure?

  67. Maya says:

    check out Sare International website. I haven’t seen the star but I’m hoping I will.

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Maya,

      Other than Venus, there are no “new” bright stars visible. My guess is that everyone has been seeing and photographing Venus. Venus switches back and forth between the evening and morning sky and most of the time is located close to the horizon so it is not always obvious. As a result, Venus is only obvious to most people for a month or two every year or so.

      Since the position and brightness of Venus is easy to predict, I’m a little suspicious about a prediction of a bright star in the sky right before Venus becomes visible. Now if a super bright supernova goes off within our galaxy, that would be something since no one can predict those. The last bright one of those happened in 1604.

      So I doubt Venus can be this star since it is visible every year or so like clockwork.

      - Carl

  68. meteorsight says:

    in Santa Clairta, CA February 9, 2009
    around 10:50 pm – did anyone else notice the fireball? I think it was a meteor but I”m not sure. I’ve never seen anything like it! Amazing!

    At first I thought the light was a plane but then I noticed it was HUGE, too big to be a plane and it wasn’t moving. It hovered for a moment and then dropped straight down and flared out. So then I thought it was like a meteor entering earth’s atomsphere, maybe?
    Either that or a ufo! LOL!

  69. Mickie says:

    On January 31, 2009 we were driving in northern Colorado near Fort Collins about sunset and saw what appeared to be the Aurora Borealis in the western sky. It was a spectrum of rainbow colors all spread out and very vivid. Beautiful, but nothing I have ever seen before. Anyone else see it, and what was it?

  70. maya says:

    Oops, Share_International.org

  71. Myra says:

    Hi,

    This is the first time I write on this blog and I am asking for help, since I don’t seem to find anything relevant to what I see in the current news. It is 7 PM eastern time and I am located in Tampa, FL.
    My husband and I have seen for quite a few days a VERY BRIGHT / BIG object on the west sky. What is odd about it, is that it is visible from very early in the evening (I can see it right now from my porch), even when we can’t see any other stars yet. It is really big and a few nights ago, later at night, it wasn’t there anymore (although the sky was clear / full of stars).
    We’ve read about comet Lulin, but the sites featuring info about it say that it is visible with the naked eye, not that it is very bright and the ONLY object visible with the naked eye on the whole sky (even when clouds are fading all the other stars).
    Does anyone know what it could be? Maybe it is the comet indeed?…

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Myra,

      The bright star that you are seeing in the western sky is the planet Venus. This month it is at it’s brightest which is many times brighter than any of the other stars. Venus will continue to be visible for the next few weeks though it will appear lower and lower in the sky.

      Check out an earlier post for more information at
      https://transientsky.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/venus-and-sirius-2-bright-stars-in-the-evening-sky/

      Comet Lulin is barely visible to the naked eye and even then only from a very dark site away from city lights. It is nowhere near as bright as Venus.

      Hope this helps and thanks for writing,
      - Carl

  72. Myra says:

    Thank you so much, Carl! The post you mentioned was really helpfull as well. We knew Venus as a very bright star, but for some reason we thought that this was some other celestial body…
    Anyway, thanks again for the information,
    Myra.

  73. Kristen says:

    YEAH!! me and my family were driving down some highway near the hangars in mountain view, california, some time at night in february and we saw some blue light that lit up the whole sky!

  74. Max says:

    Hi, on Sunday night, March 1, 2009, I saw an object in the sky as described by several others, particularly by #12 John and #52 Jill. It was around 10:00-10:30PM in Miami, when I saw an object in the night sky moving at extremely high rate of speed in a west to east direction. It had a fiery head like a fireball and a very long tail in bright blue, yellow and white. Unlike falling stars, it appeared to be entering Earth’s atmosphere heading downwards and very close to its surface as well. It only lasted for 2 or 3 seconds and disappeared completely. With no doubt, it was the most amazing object I’ve seen in my life during any night.

  75. Lynn says:

    what might be seen without a telescope from Kiawah Island the week of April 4-11?

  76. David says:

    Last night at approximately 9:45 pm I was leaving my parents I happened to look into the sky and a very bright white light shot across the sky overhead and appeared to be at a lower altitude then most planes and it was extremely fast. It did not change course, altitude speed or color or brightness for the few seconds I witnessed it. I have never seen anything like it. I was just curious if anyone had any theories as to what it was.

    Thanks

  77. Gabriel says:

    On October 31st 2009,My girlfriend and I were witness to what I believe was somthing entering the atmosphere. Now, I have seen Meteor showers before, and shooting stars, also satelites traversing the upper regings of the sky . Now the light or object , if I was to guess the tail was approximatly the lenghth of 10 city buses from our perspective. It didn’t travel at the speed of lets say a shooting star. It traveled slow enough for me to point out to my girl and track it. This is the first for me in boynton beach , florida. I attempted to call kennedy space center, But got some bogus answering system. reguardless, I left a message, witch they probably took as a hoax.

  78. Daniel says:

    My sister and her husband turned around at a post office in southern Arkansas and out in a field they seen a serious of colored lights that they described to look like a city. I’ve never seen anything of the sort but i believe my sister and her husband. Is there some kind of explanation behind this?

  79. Daniel says:

    Daniel :My sister and her husband turned around at a post office in southern Arkansas and out in a field they seen a series of colored lights that they described to look like a city. I’ve never seen anything of the sort but i believe my sister and her husband. Is there some kind of explanation behind this?

  80. Heather Kenmure says:

    Earlier tonight I saw a bright ‘string’ of lights high in the sky to the east of my position here in London UK, 100 metres south of the post office tower. The lights were static in position but seemed to move to the south over a couple of hours (earth’s rotation?). They look like 3 or more lights joined by a light string. The altitude is hard to guess as the occasional cloudbase is at about 1000 feet (I’m a lapsed pilot), but my sense is that they are just outside the upper atmosphere rather than further away… Could they be a satellite? I have pictures. Thanks

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Heather,

      Your sighting sounds interesting. Off the top of my head, I’m not sure what you saw. Would it be possible to see the pictures you took?

      Thanks for writing,
      - Carl (Transient Sky blog)

  81. Veronica Mara says:

    Hi I just saw a comet like 30 minutes ago over auckland new zealand now the time is 21:38 ( 9:38pm) why was nothing on the news ????

  82. jolene says:

    Hey on January 18th, around 7:30 ish pm, i live in twin bridges montana and seen also an amazing sight in which i hadn’t seen before, it was huge and a brilliant red and bluish color and lasted about 5 seconds traveling west to east. I too was amazed it wasn’t on the news. Anyone else close to montana see it. And is it possible on the 18th we seen the same thing.

  83. Tim Tompkins says:

    January 23, 2010 4:42am PST, Blue green meteor came in from the southeast side of Las Vegas and exited to the Northwest. Slow burning glow with a long tail. 3 seconds and air bursts preceded the meteor. Lots of activity over the evening, but this was the monster. No reports on the news or internet about this one.

  84. Carol Marshall says:

    Around 7:30 am EST over the western sky, in line with the lake michigan horizon, there was a bright orange glow – when looking more closely through binoculars, it appeared rectangle in shape (almost looked like a freighter on fire), which shoots of orange color from the top (sort of like a cake with candles burning). Very quickly, the top became swirly, the rectangle became smaller and then quickdly dissappeared from sight. Does anyone know what this was?

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