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US, California: Mystery Lights Interrupt News 8 Live Shot


One of our news crews spotted some mysterious lights in the sky during Tuesday's 11 p.m. news, and now we're trying to figure out what it was.

A series of glowing reddish lights, almost like floating flames, dominated the sky Tuesday night in University Heights looking east. The unidentified objects soared into the darkness, eventually appearing to burn themselves out, adding to the intrigue. Police say they had no reports of any unusual sky activity, nor did renowned local astronomer Dennis Mammana.

"Something like this would have definitely crossed my radar screen," he said.

Tuesday night's sighting comes at a time of other popular sky shows, from the Northern Lights to last month's meteor show.

"A few weeks ago you had that great fireball crossing the sky. People saw it all the way from Las Vegas to San Diego," Mammana said.

So what were the mysterious balls of fire?

Meteor

Video Captures Draconid Meteor

© redOrbit

This video catches the moment when a Draconid meteor exploded in Earth's atmosphere earlier this month. The dramatic footage comes from a campaign to observe this important meteor shower using aircraft to beat the clouds.

On the evening of Saturday 8 October, Earth plunged through a stream of dust and rocks that had been expelled into space by the comet Giacobini - Zinner. The resultant meteor shower lit the skies over Europe with shooting stars.

The display radiates from the constellation of Draco, The Dragon, giving the name of "Draconids" to this shower which occurs at the same time every year as the Earth passes through the debris trail. In 2011, however, there was a difference. Astronomers had predicted an unusually high numbers of meteors as Earth was due to encounter particularly dense patches of the cometary detritus.

Detlef Koschny, leader of the Meteor Research Group at ESA, led the Agency's involvement in a project to find out if the prediction was right.

With cameras and other equipment packed into two Falcon-20 research planes, Detlef's colleagues took to the skies over Europe to rise above the clouds and watch for meteors.

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Aurora (northern lights) seen in more than half United States

Several sightings in Maryland and Virginia

Aurora explosion in Ozark, Arkansas October 24, 2011. (FromYouTube video posted by briandjin2 ) A stunning auroral display amazed and awed sky watchers as far south as Arkansas Monday night. SpaceWeather.com reports the unusual northern lights display was observed in more than half of the U.S. states. MSNBC called it one of the "farthest-reaching auroral shows in years"


The above video was submitted to YouTube by briandjin2 who offered this description: "...a little time lapse from stills showing the faint aurora explode in just a few minutes to become some of the brightest aurora ever seen at such low latitudes."

Aurora are caused by geomagnetic storms which originate from coronal mass ejections, or blasts of solar wind. Yesterday's storm hit the Earth at 2 p.m. according to SpaceWeather.com.

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CME Impact Sparks Geomagnetic Storm

A CME hit Earth's magnetic field on Oct. 24th at approximately 1800 UT (02:00 pm EDT). According to analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, the impact caused a strong compression of Earth's magnetic field, allowing solar wind to penetrate all the way down to geosynchronous orbit for a brief period between 19:06 UT and 19:11 UT. Earth-orbiting spacecraft could have been directly exposed to solar wind plasma during that time.

The impact also sparked a geomagnetic storm, underway now. Geir Øye sends this picture from Ørsta, Norway:

© Geir Øye
"These are the strongest and most beautiful auroras I've ever seen," says Øye, a veteran observer of Northern Lights. "I can only imagine what the display must have been further north."

High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras as Earth's magnetic field continues to reverberate from the CME impact. The best time to look is usually during the hours around local midnight.

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Coronal Mass Ejection struck Earth's magnetic field today

A coronal mass ejection (CME) struck Earth's magnetic field today, Oct. 24th, at approximately 1800 UT (02:00 pm EDT) setting the stage for a possible geomagnetic storm. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras. Storm alerts: text, voice.

Image
© Rob Stammes
"The expected solarwind shockwave arrived on my instruments at 18.35 UTC.The sky is clear and there is beautiful northern light."
Update #1: Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab say the CME impact caused a strong compression of Earth's magnetic field, allowing the solar wind to penetrate all the way down to geosyncronous orbit for a brief period between 19:06 UT and 19:11 UT. Earth-orbiting spacecraft could have been directly exposed to solar wind plasma during that time.

Meteor

Comet Elenin cloud corpse spotted in space

"Doomsday Comet" Elenin was briefly famous for inaccurate predictions that it might hit Earth. Instead it disintegrated as it approached the sun last month. (Doomsday canceled.) Over the weekend, Italian astronomer Rolando Ligustri spotted the comet's remains. It's the elongated cloud in this Oct. 22nd photo of the star field where Elenin would have appeared if it were still intact:

Image
© Rolando Ligustri
Another team of astronomers--Ernesto Guido, Giovanni Sostero and Nick Howes--spotted the cloud on the same night. At first they were skeptical. "The cloud was extremely faint and diffuse," says Guido. "We wondered if it might be scattered moonlight or some other transient artifact." But when the team looked again on Oct. 23, the cloud was still there. A two-night blink animation shows that the cloud is moving just as the original comet would have. Note: Some readers have noticed a fast-moving streak to the to the lower right of the debris cloud. That is an unrelated asteroid, 2000 OJ8 (magnitude 14), which happened to be in the field of view at the same time as the cloud of Elenin.

Meteor

UK: Search Mission After Fisherman and Pilot Mistake Meteorite for Crashing Plane

A meteroite falling to Earth sparked a rescue mission when a fishermen and a pilot mistook it for a plane crashing into the sea.

Air traffic controllers confirmed no aircraft were missing on Friday night as the coastguard searched waters off Herne Bay, Kent. A spokesman said: "We found nothing, so put it down to space debris."

Hundreds of meteorites were visible as the Earth passed a cosmic dust cloud over the weekend.

Meteor

UK: Meteorite crashes into sea

Image
© Unknown
A meteorite falling into the sea sparked a search and rescue mission last night after two people reported they saw a plane crash into the water off the coast of Whitstable.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service were called out after a pilot and another person both reported they saw what the thought was an aircraft crashing into the sea.

However, after firefighters from Whitstable and nearby Herne Bay scoured the area, no trace of the aircraft could be found.

Air traffic controllers, reported they didn't have any planes missing, so eventually the search was called off, and put down to a meteorite falling to Earth.

Hundreds of meteorites are expected to streak across the sky this weekend as the Earth passes through a cloud of dust left by behind by a comet called Giacobini-Zinner.

A spokesman for Kent Fire and Rescue Service said: "Two independent calls came in reporting a plane had crashed off the coast.

"Even a pilot who was looking out of his window reported a plane was in distress and had gone into the sea.

Meteor

Faulkes Team Images Trojan Jupiter Comet

© Universe Today

Jupiter Comet

Based on an observation posted on the Near Earth Object confirmation page from an image taken by A. D. Grauer using the mount Lemmon observatory, Faulkes telescope team members Nick Howes, Giovanni Sostero and Ernesto Guido along with University of Glamorgan student Antos Kasprzyk and amateur astronomer Iain Melville, imaged what is potentially some of the first direct evidence for a Trojan Jupiter Comet.

Comet P/2010 TO20 (LINEAR-GRAUER) was immediately recognised by the team from looking at the orbit to be a highly unusual object, but it was only when the images came through from the Faulkes observations that the true nature of the object became clear.

The observations showed a distinct cometary appearance, with a sharp central condensation, compact coma and a wide, fan-shaped tail.

This is no ordinary comet, and supports the theory and initial spectral observation work by a team using the keck telescope in Hawaii. Closer analysis of their object (part of a binary known as the Patroclus pair) showed that it was made of water ice and a thin layer of dust, but at the time of writing, no direct images of a Jupiter Trojan showing evidence of a coma and tail had been taken.

The Faulkes teams above image, combined with the original observations by Grauer clearly show a cometary object, thus confirming the Keck team's hypothesis.

Meteor

UFO over Sioux Falls? Experts think it was a meteor

Image
© File Photo
Meteors now posing as anthropogenic space junk?
Amie Neustrom doesn't have a good explanation for what she saw in the night sky near her Renner home early Wednesday.

It surprised her and happened so fast that she isn't sure whether it was a meteor or a UFO.

"I really honestly don't know what to think," she said.

It was about 3:30 a.m., and she was on her deck smoking a cigarette when the deck lit up and an orange-and-blue object streaked off, leaving a trail of smoke behind.

"It was quick ...," she said. "I've never seen anything like it. I've seen shooting stars out here. Nothing like this. It was so bright."