Fri, 25 Jan 2013 08:10 CST
The all sky camera at the Thomas G. Cupillari '60 Observatory at Keystone College; the camera's view of the fireball after it lit up the sky Monday night.
Just before midnight on Monday, a bright flash occurred, lighting up the entire sky.It was a bright fireball," said Thomas Cupillari, director of the Thomas G. Cupillari '60 Observatory at Keystone College. "They graze the top of the atmosphere and can stay for quite awhile," Cupillari said. "This fireball was so bright it lit up the entire sky around it. They usually burn up within one to three seconds. There was one I saw years ago that lasted for 5-20 seconds. It's very unusual for them to be so bright and last that long."
The all sky camera is a fish eye lens that is pointed straight up into the air and can see 360 degrees around. The camera is in a network with Sandia National Laboratory through New Mexico State University. They are set up at various locations so common events that overlap can be tracked.
"The information from the cameras allows the laboratory to track where it came from, how high it was, and more," Cupillari explained. "It helps separate nature from manmade events."
The nearest location to the observatory is 80 miles south in Ottsville, which overlaps coverage.
"Regular meteors can be seen on clear nights and sometimes you can see several in one night, but fireballs aren't very common," Cupillari said. "One night our camera picked up 32 meteors and none of them were fireballs."
He added that when virtually all meteors are captured, the sky is black, but the one on Monday night lit up the sky.