Fire in the Sky


US: Meteors Scream Over Maryland for Past Two Nights

For a second night in a row, Maryland residents have reported large fireballs coursing through the night sky.

The latest apparent meteor sighting occurred around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday and set Twitter alight with wondrous didja-see-thats??! "Whoa," reported Chris Noonan Sturm. "I think I just saw a meteor scream to earth over Rockville & 270 while walking dog. Crazy fast. Started white, turned green, red." Others chimed in to say they saw a "white ball" shoot over the horizon in Gaithersburg; one person said it "flared out" after flying over Clopper, Md.

On Tuesday, the sky over Frederick and Hagerstown lit up like daytime when what must have been an epic meteor broke through the atmosphere. The Frederick Post was quickly on the story, gathering the most terrifying quote perhaps ever printed about shooting stars:

"I heard this sizzling behind me. ... I turned and looked: This huge meteorite came. ... It was throwing off sparks and chunks," Labrush said. "I'm into meteorites - every time they call for meteor showers, I'm out. I very seldom get scared - (but) I never want to see another one like that."


US: Witnesses Startled by Shooting Star Over Frederick, Maryland

It wasn't a bird.

It wasn't a plane.

It wasn't even ... well, you know, but there was something that zipped across the evening sky at about 6:50 p.m. Tuesday and a number of area folks say they saw it.

"I tell you what, the hair stood up on the back of my neck," said Al Labrush, a veteran meteorite watcher and collector. "It was frightening."

Labrush said he was standing near Danielle's restaurant downtown when he caught sight of something that looked to be about 1,500 feet away.

"I heard this sizzling behind me. ... I turned and looked: This huge meteorite came. ... It was throwing off sparks and chunks," Labrush said. "I'm into meteorites -- every time they call for meteor showers, I'm out. I very seldom get scared -- (but) I never want to see another one like that."

Steve Lawrence saw it, too.

Lawrence was driving home on Old Kiln Road when he saw the bright object in the northern sky, "like a fireball," through the passenger side window.

Three white flashes erupted, lighting up the night like daylight for an instant, and then it all seemed to disintegrate, he said. "Night turned to day," Lawrence said. "The flash was like heat lightning."

Sean Dennison saw it, too -- from Hagerstown.


US: Bright Maryland Meteor Spotted Tuesday Evening

I came back today to two reports of a bright meteor visible from Maryland Tuesday evening, Dec. 28, 2010. Details are still very sketchy. But 25-or-so other people from Virginia to New England spotted something similar at about the same time, according to fireball reports to the American Meteor Society web site.

If you spotted it, too, we'd love to get your descriptions.

Please leave a comment, and describe where you were, the time and date you saw the meteor, the direction you were looking and the direction of the meteor's duration, movement and approximate angle above the horizon. As an example: "Meteor moved from 40 degrees above the northeast horizon to 20 degrees above the southeast horizon before disappearing..." (On the horizon is zero degrees; straight up is 90 degrees.) Also include any color, visible trail or sounds.

The first report to us came from G. Mitchell, who emailed us at 9:18 p.m. Tuesday:

"Spotted a large green meteor tonight, approx, 6:50 p.m., moving east to west, lasting about 6 sec. with a shower of green sparks following my location 5 miles south of Pocomoke City, Md."


New Mexico Fireball on Christmas

Reported by Thomas Ashcraft.

Nice meteor over eastern New Mexico Dec 25 at 2218 MST evening. (Dec 26, 2010, 0518 UTC).

Interestingly, the slower and sometimes larger the fireball, the less radio scatter reflection it creates. This one made just a subtle "twinkle."

Click here to watch video clip.


A Fireball Over Iran

© Amir Hossein Abolfath (TWAN)
Fireball over Iran
Intensely bright, this fireball meteor flashed through Tuesday's cold, clear, early morning skies over the Karkas Mountains in central Iran, near the peak of the annual Geminid Meteor Shower. To capture the meteor moment and wintery night skyscape, the photographer's camera was fixed to a tripod, its shutter open for about 1.5 minutes. During that time, the multitude of stars slowly traced short, arcing trails through the sky, a reflection of planet Earth's daily rotation on its axis. The meteor's brilliant dash through the scene was brief, though. Changing color as it went, it also left a reddish swirl of hot, glowing gas near the center of its path. The mountains appear in silhouette against the steady glow of distant city lights.


California, US: Source of Loud Boom Continues to be Mysterious

Residents in westside neighborhoods reported explosion Saturday night, but police found nothing.

A loud boom that shocked residents in a section of Novato's west side Saturday night prompted about nine calls to the police, but nothing could be found as the source, police said Sunday.

Calls came in at 8:50 p.m. and two officers responded to neighborhoods around Simmons Lane and Novato Boulevard, not far from Pioneer Park and The Square shopping center. Lt. Dave Jeffries said police received "eight or nine calls in the first two or three minutes after that, but we were not able to locate a source."


UK: Meteor Fireball Spotted in Skies Over Britain

© Pete Lawrence
Meteor showers, like this one over the UK in 2009, are eagerly sought out by stargazers.

Stargazers throughout the UK have reported seeing a meteor-like streak of light in the darkened skies.

The BBC was contacted by people in Scotland, the Midlands, Wales, and northern and south west England who saw the display at about 1740 GMT.

One witness driving home from work in Coventry said the light was a bit scary because it was so "incredibly bright".

Astronomers said the brightness of the meteor, a chunk of space rock burning up in the atmosphere, was unusual.

Dr David Whitehouse. astronomer and former BBC correspondent, said: "It's a bright meteor called a fireball, extraordinarily bright.

"This a chunk of space rock perhaps the size of your fist, perhaps a bit larger, that is burning up as it comes through our atmosphere at an altitude of 60 or 70 miles or so.


Atlanta, US: Mysterious fireball streaking across the sky leaves onlookers bewildered

Unexplained: A mysterious fireball streaked across the sky over Atlanta leaving onlookers bewildered
A mysterious fireball that lit up the sky over Atlanta has left onlookers bewildered as to what it could have been.

Charsign Raymond, 39, of Clarkston, was visiting a friend's home in Stone Mountain when his friend's wife saw the unidentified object streak across the sky.

'She ran in and said, "Look, you've all got to see this"', Mr Raymond recalled.

Mr Raymond managed to capture the double-barrelled ball of fire falling towards the ground on his camera.

What could it be? The double-barrelled ball of fire has not been explained by authorities
DeKalb County Police Department said they had no reports of fireballs hitting the county recently and have offered no explanations as to what it could be.

A neighbour who also witnessed the unexplained sighting said she thought it was a meteor about 10 times larger than any she'd ever seen before.

A second streak zoomed across the sky just seconds later.


The Rupununi Event

© Cosmic Tusk
I now move on to the suspected explosion over British Guyana in 1935. The main source for information on this event is a story entitled Tornado or Meteor Crash? in the magazine The Sky (the forerunner of Sky and Telescope) of September 1939(5). A report from Serge A. Korff of the Bartol Research Foundation, Franklin Institute (Delaware, USA) was printed, he having been in the area - the Rupununi region of British Guyana - a couple of months later. The date of the explosion appears to have been December 11, 1935, at about 21h local time. I might note that this is near the date of the peak of the Geminid meteor shower, but yet again this may be merely a coincidence. The location is given as being near Lat: 2 deg 10min North, Long: 59 deg 10 min West, close to Marudi Mountain.

Korff's description suggested that the region of devastation might be greater than that involved in the Tunguska event itself. On his suggestion, a message was sent to William H. Holden, who in 1937 was in the general region with the Terry-Holden expedition of the American Museum of Natural History. That group hiked to the top of Marudi Mountain in 1937 November and reported seeing an area some miles across where the trees had been broken off about 25 feet above their bases, although regrowth over two years in this tropical jungle had made it difficult to define the area affected. Holden confirmed, on returning to New York, that he believed the devastation was due to an atmospheric explosion of cosmic origin. An explorer and author, Desmond Holdridge, also visited the region in the late 1930′s and confirmed the suspicion that a comet or asteroid detonation was responsible.


US: Mystery Object Streaks Across The Sky

© Charsign Raymond

It was a bird. It was a plane. Or maybe there was just something wrong with the video camera.

You decide.

A DeKalb County man happened to have a camera rolling when what looks like a fireball floated in the sky overhead last week. Or maybe it was just an optical illusion created by a passing aircraft.

Charsign Raymond, of Clarkston, was visiting a friend's apartment just west of downtown Stone Mountain when his friend's wife happened to drive up.

"She ran in and said, 'Look, you've all got to see this," Raymond recalled.

Raymond, 39, had been playing with his video recorder, and he got out of the apartment in time to capture whatever it was in the sky.

It looks like a double-barreled ball of fire falling toward earth.

Raymond contacted the AJC last weekend with his find and later loaned a reporter his videotape so the AJC could publish it here.