At 6:24 AM EDT, September 30, a surprising light appeared in the predawn sky over Hiram — an extremely bright fireball meteor flared overhead! A fireball meteor is a meteor that appears brighter than the planet Venus. Reports of the flare were made by startled observers over eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
Hiram College is home to a NASA All-Sky Fireball Network camera system that watches for bright meteors every clear night. Recorded events are uploaded to NASA for analysis which aids in assessing threats to spacecraft by high-velocity solar system debris.
Hiram College has been home to the NASA all-sky camera since 2013. The camera sits atop one of the buildings on the college campus and is maintained in cooperation with NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office.
The annual Perseid Meteor Shower peaks from August 11 to 13, the event many consider to be the best meteor shower of the year, thanks to frequent meteors streaking across the sky and comfortable nighttime temperatures. This year, skywatchers can expect to see between 50 and 75 meteors an hour under dark skies, or about one meteor every minute. The meteors are bits of material strewn across Earth’s path in space by Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. The bits of dust and grit glow brightly as they burn up while entering Earth’s atmosphere at about 37 miles per second.
This year, for those who venture out before midnight on the peak date(s), Earth’s Moon won’t interfere. Dedicated meteor spotters — those who observe in the wee hours between midnight and dawn — may curse as Moon rises and brightens the sky, making faint meteors harder to see. There is another problem, however, much closer to home: the weather.
The weather forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Of course.
Do not abandon hope.
The nights preceding and following the shower’s peak see occasional meteors from the Perseid and Alpha Capricornid showers and include fireballs (very bright meteors) from both. When the sky’s clear, go out and enjoy the mild nights that may include “shooting stars.” After twilight fades, find a dark spot, spread out a blanket, or untangle that deck lounge chair, apply a little mosquito repellent and look up. As your eyes grow used to the dark you’ll see more and more stars, planets Jupiter and Saturn gracing the southern sky, and with decently dark sky, spy the soft clouds of our own Milky Way galaxy. You’ll probably see a satellite or two, too.
Did you see it? Our NASA All Sky Fireball Network camera picked up a pretty decent meteor streak in the wee hours (2:33 AM) this morning. It would have been a bit chilly to sit up all night watching ourselves, but the camera system operates all night, every clear night to record meteoric activity. Learn more here: https://fireballs.ndc.nasa.gov/
UPDATE: On January 18, the American Meteor Society reported two meteorites from the January 16 were found in Michigan. Congratulations to Robert Ward and Larry Atkins on the first two reported finds. The two pieces were black, about the size of driveway gravel stones.
A brilliant meteor flashed across the skies of the Great Lakes Region of the U.S. Tuesday night ending with two brilliant flashes and loud booms. People reacted with delight and alarm, some calling emergency services after witnessing the event. Officials quickly identified the source as a good-sized meteor entering Earth’s atmosphere, flaring and exploding as a fireball-bolide (brilliant, exploding meteor). Here’s what we know, courtesy of William Cooke, Ph.D., NASA Meteoroid Environment Office. This statement has been edited and updated from social media posts made by Dr. Cooke. — ed.
A very bright fireball (possible superbolide, which has a brightness between that of the Full Moon and the Sun) was seen in the Michigan, Ohio, Illinois region Tuesday night, January 16, at 8:08:30 PM EST. Preliminary information indicates that this meteoroid/small asteroid entered the atmosphere above the southeastern part of Michigan, just to the northwest of Detroit. The fireball was so bright that it was seen through clouds by our meteor camera located at Oberlin College, about 120 miles away.
We have calculated that this was a very slow moving meteor – speed of about 28,000 miles per hour. This fact, combined with the brightness of the meteor (which suggests a fairly big space rock at least a yard across), shows that the object penetrated deep into the atmosphere before it broke apart (which produced the sounds heard by many observers). It is likely that there are meteorites on the ground near this region – one of our colleagues at Johnson Space Center has found a Doppler weather radar signature characteristic of meteoritic material falling to earth.
Pieces of an asteroid lying near Detroit? Let’s see what the meteorite hunters find.
Earth is entering a stream of debris from Halley’s Comet, source of the annual Orionid meteor shower. Thursday night, NASA’s network of all-sky meteor cameras detected 23 Orionid fireballs over the USA –meteors that flare brighter than the planet Venus shines– a result of comet dust hitting the atmosphere at speeds exceeding 65 km/s (145,000 mph). Among several fireballs recorded by the Fireball Network camera on the Hiram campus was the grand meteoric streak pictured above; that fireball was also recorded by the camera located at the Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh in the wee hours of Friday morning. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Oct. 21-22 with as many as 25 meteors per hour. The meteor shower is called “Orionid” because the “falling stars” appear to originate from the vicinity of our sky occupied constellation Orion. Visit Spaceweather.com for observing tips and sky maps. — From a report by Spaceweather.com plus local contribution.
An exceptionally bright and long-lasting fireball meteor was recorded early Sunday morning by the NASA All-Sky Fireball Network camera situated on the campus of Hiram College. The event took place at 5:09 AM EDT, April 23, the meteor streaking from south to north as it burned up entering Earth’s atmosphere. Several other fireball meteors were also recorded during during the night but this was the brightest of the bunch. A fireball is a meteor that glows brighter than the planet Venus. NASA uses data collected from Hiram’s camera along with that from other systems in the network to learn about micrometeorites and their threat to spacecraft. Fireball Network images and data are available to astronomers and to the general public alike, and are updated daily. Click here to visit the All-Sky Fireball Network website.
UPDATE: Due to mostly-cloudy to overcast skies and recurring scattered thunderstorms, this event has been CANCELED. — JG, 8/12/16, 8:00 PM.
Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College will be open for public observing Friday, August 12, from 9:30 to midnight. Hoping to catch the end of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, the observatory is hosting its monthly public event on this Friday rather than on Saturday night.
Visitors are invited to bring personal lawn chairs and sit out beneath the stars watching for meteors (mosquito repellent is strongly recommended) until midnight. Via telescope, views of beautiful Saturn, and other objects will also be offered. Saturn’s famous ring system is nicely tilted allowing for excellent viewing, given clear skies.
No reservations are required and there is no admission fee for observatory public nights. Cloudy skies at the starting time cancel the event and, in that case, the observatory will not open.
The Observatory is located on Wakefield Road (Rt. 82) less than a quarter of a mile west of Route 700 in Hiram. There is no parking at the Observatory. Visitors may park on permissible side streets near the Post Office, a short distance east of the observatory.
The NASA All-Sky Fireball Network camera at Hiram College captured the passage of a very bright meteor over Hiram on June 11 at 10:17 PM. The extremely bright meteor or “fireball” was also recorded by the NASA camera located on the campus of Oberlin College. Fireballs are meteors that flare brighter than the planet Venus shines. It is likely the glowing streak seen here was caused by a bit of material, possibly the size of a tiny pebble, vaporizing as it crashed into Earth’s upper atmosphere at extreme speed. A witness to the event wrote, “I never saw anything like this one… It was beautiful.”
For those with a dark site from which to watch, and the patience to “wait for it…” the 2015 Perseids meteor shower was a good show. Reports from around the world noted substantial numbers of “shooting star” sightings. In the Northeastern Ohio area, amateurs reported from 25 to as many as 57 meteors per hour from good viewing locations. Local observers reported seeing persistent trains, greenish colors, and even flares from some meteors.
The NASA All-Sky “Fireball Network” recorded hundreds of meteors during the event peak, the night of August 12 to 13. “The Perseid shower last night was an almost perfect combinations of circumstances – no Moon, decent shower rates, and clear skies over much of the network,” wrote Dr. Bill Cooke, Meteoroid Environments Office, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.
The Fireball Network camera system located on the campus of Hiram College recorded a good number of fireballs — meteors brighter than the planet Venus — overnight including several that appeared directly overhead and at least one that appears to have ended in a flare … a bolide. In the images we have posted here, the top of the photo is north and the bottom is south.
The Perseid meteors are associated with the stream of dusty debris called the Perseid cloud and stretches along the orbit of the comet Swift–Tuttle. Meteors appear when Earth passes through the dust cloud and bits of cometary material plunge into the atmosphere where friction heats and vaporizes them. The debris particles enter Earth’s atmosphere at around 35 miles per second and most are about the size of grains of sand. The name of the shower is derived from the fact that the meteors, if traced back along their paths, appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus.