Fire in the SkyS


US: Meteor Sighting Reported Over Cambridge

© Brad Kelly / Wicked LocalA Somerville photographer captured a photo of an apparent meteor streaking across the sky over Harvard Square Saturday night.
Cambridge, Massachusetts -- A Somerville photographer captured a photo of what he believes was a meteor streaking across the sky over Harvard Square Saturday night, our news partner Wicked Local/Cambridge reported.

Brad Kelly said he was late for a movie he wanted to see, so he ended up walking around Harvard Square, snapping photos to pass the time.

At around 8:30 p.m., he said he found himself in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank building, and that's when he captured the picture.


US: Woman Films Object Shooting Across Sky

Susan Stacy knows what a plane looks like when it streaks across the Gulf of Mexico at sunset. But she has no idea what she captured on video from her front porch in Terramar Beach on the island's West End last month and again Friday night.

Watch the video below and tell us what you think? Plane, meteor or UFO?


Threat of Near-Earth Asteroid Prompts Deflection Theory

© unknownPhoto of Apophis
A New York professor has an idea that may help to deflect any asteroid that is on a head-on collision with Earth. He is testing his idea, which includes a solar sail, sunlight, and a warmed up asteroid, with the help of NASA.

Dr. Gregory L. Matloff is an associate professor of physics at New York City College of Technology (City Tech).

He is working with NASA on an idea of heating up an asteroid with the use of a solar sail (which produces a concentrated stream of sunlight) so that a jet stream could be created on the asteroid to alter its course away from Earth.

Earth is always in jeopardy of being hit by an asteroid and other space objects. Small ones - meteorites - hit Earth all of the time and still smaller ones - meteors - enter Earth's atmosphere but burn up before reaching the ground. However, larger ones still out in space - meteoroids and even larger ones called asteroids -- are of concern to astronomers because of their potential to do great harm to our planet if they should collide with us.


Another Fireball in Irish Skies

Irish Fireball
© RTÉ NewsAstronomy - Public appeal for fireball sightings.

A fireball has blazed across Irish skies for the second time in ten days.

Astronomy Ireland says a piece of an asteroid or comet entered the Earth's atmosphere over Ireland and blew apart between 6am and 7am.

The organisation says it has already received a number of reports of the event and is appealing to the public to report any sightings here.

'Large fireballs can explode with the power of an atomic bomb when they burst tens of kilometres above our heads,' said David Moore, Chairman of Astronomy Ireland.

'Fragments that survive the fall to the ground can fetch a keen meteorite hunter hundreds - if not thousands - of Euro, if sold'.

Astronomy Ireland says a fireball also appeared in the moonlit sky on 18 January.


US: 'Boom' Heard Across Southeast Oklahoma

Oklahoma City - A loud 'boom' was heard by Oklahomans on Thursday morning, but officials confirmed that it was not an earthquake.

Eyewitness News 5 began reporting a possible earthquake around 10:30 a.m. The United States Geological Survey said no such earthquake had occurred.

The last earthquake in Oklahoma was at 9:53 a.m. on Jan. 19. It was a magnitude of 2.8, according to the USGS.

Eyewitness News 5 will update this story as more details become available.


Germany: Bolide Sighting Near Geislingen January 8th

A report of an effort to find the extra-terrestrial visitor, by members of the German Meteorite Forum.

Meteor Over Germany 8/01/11
© Hermann Koberger, Fornach (Austria)
On Jan. 8th, 2011, at 17:51h local time, a bolide stroke across the evening sky in southern Germany. The bolide was witnessed by many, and captured by at least two cameras in Switzerland and Austria. Also roaring sounds and thunder were reported. Especially the reports of sound being heard made (potential) meteorite hunter hearts beat faster...

One of the two known photographs of the bolide was made in Switzerland by one of Mark Vornhusen's meteor-camera-network cameras. Being a member of the German Meteorite Forum, Mark posted his photo on the Forum, and soon after other reports were shared, including a beautiful second photograph, made by Hermann Koberger in Fornach (Austria).

As both photographs captured the bolide at angles almost perpendicular to each other, this yielded a perfect opportunity to determine the location of the track across the sky, and it's projection on the earth's surface. The exact location of both cameras was known, and because stars were visible in both photographs, combined with the know time of exposure, directions could be determined fairly precise. Track ends in both photos could be calculated at about the same high above the earth's surface (28 km). Track beginnings showed a difference. The Swiss photo seemed to have captured the bolide somewhat earlier in its flight. This could be explained by the larger distance to the track in the Austrian photo, and the lower sensitivity of this camera. The Austrian track was extrapolated to the Swiss photo's high at the beginning.

From the two photographs, Mark Vornhusen calculated the location of the bolide's start and end point and their highs above the earth's surface. He also collected wind speed information for different highs, and came up with a first prediction of a possible fall area. It was situated near the German city Geislingen an der Steige.

Forum members became excited about the idea to go out, and try to find meteorites that might have reached the ground.

With a calculated bolide end high of 28 km (17.4 miles), there was expected to be little chance of material being found however.

On the other hand, this looked to be an ideal opportunity to meet fellow Forum members, and have a great time "talking meteorite" with the equal minded.


Asteroids Ahoy! Jupiter Scar Likely from Rocky Body

A hurtling asteroid about the size of the Titanic caused the scar that appeared in Jupiter's atmosphere on July 19, 2009, according to two papers published recently in the journal Icarus.

Data from three infrared telescopes enabled scientists to observe the warm atmospheric temperatures and unique chemical conditions associated with the impact debris. By piecing together signatures of the gases and dark debris produced by the impact shockwaves, an international team of scientists was able to deduce that the object was more likely a rocky asteroid than an icy comet. Among the teams were those led by Glenn Orton, an astronomer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and Leigh Fletcher, researcher at Oxford University, U.K., who started the work while he was a postdoctoral fellow at JPL.

© NASA/IRTF/JPL-Caltech/University of OxfordThese infrared images obtained from NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, show particle debris in Jupiter's atmosphere after an object hurtled into the atmosphere on July 19, 2009.
"Both the fact that the impact itself happened at all and the implication that it may well have been an asteroid rather than a comet shows us that the outer solar system is a complex, violent and dynamic place, and that many surprises may be out there waiting for us," said Orton. "There is still a lot to sort out in the outer solar system."

The new conclusion is also consistent with evidence from results from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope indicating the impact debris in 2009 was heavier or denser than debris from comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, the last known object to hurl itself into Jupiter's atmosphere in 1994.


Exploding Comet Could Have Blown Up With Carbon Monoxide

Comet Holmes
© NASA/ESA/A. DyerComet Holmes as captured by astrophotographer Alan Dyer in Alberta, Canada, on Nov. 1, 2007.

The mysterious, spectacular flare of Comet 17P/Holmes has been observed three times, and it may give warning of an imminent explosion fueled by carbon monoxide gas when it returns in 2014, say astronomers.

Holmes shocked the world in October 2007 when it suddenly brightened by a factor of 500,000, going from a humdrum ball of dust to a brilliant orb visible to the naked eye. The comet spewed 100 million tons of dust into space, comparable to the amount of ash unleashed by Mount St. Helens, and briefly swelled to a diameter greater than the sun's.

But despite months of observations from hundreds of telescopes, the cause of Holmes' dramatic explosion remains unknown.

Astronomers initially suggested that a dusty crust may have formed on the comet's nucleus as it approached the sun, trapping frozen ice underneath. As it neared the sun, the surface would heat so rapidly that the ice turned from solid to gas without even melting. Gas would build up and burst through the crust, sending Holmes' innards flying outward.


The sky is falling: Odds for a potentially devastating space rock to hit Earth are 1 in 10

© Stéphane Guisard
The odds that a potentially devastating space rock will hit Earth this century may be as high as one in 10. So why isn't NASA trying harder to prevent catastrophe?

Breakthrough ideas have a way of seeming obvious in retro­spect, and about a decade ago, a Columbia University geophysicist named Dallas Abbott had a breakthrough idea. She had been pondering the craters left by comets and asteroids that smashed into Earth. Geologists had counted them and concluded that space strikes are rare events and had occurred mainly during the era of primordial mists. But, Abbott realized, this deduction was based on the number of craters found on land - and because 70 percent of Earth's surface is water, wouldn't most space objects hit the sea? So she began searching for underwater craters caused by impacts rather than by other forces, such as volcanoes. What she has found is spine-chilling: evidence that several enormous asteroids or comets have slammed into our planet quite recently, in geologic terms. If Abbott is right, then you may be here today, reading this magazine, only because by sheer chance those objects struck the ocean rather than land.


Comet Hartley 2 Pumps Out the Cyanide

© NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMDClose-up photo of Comet Hartley 2 from the Nov. 4, 2010 flyby performed by NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft. Image captured by the spacecraft's Medium-Resolution Instrument.
Comet Hartley 2 has graced our night skies for several weeks, reaching its closest approach (unfortunately timed near the full moon) on October 18th. NASA is taking advantage of this near approach to visit the comet with the Deep Impact/EPOXI mission, and they are already making surprising discoveries.

Deep Impact put on a spectacular show for scientists and space-geeks alike when it rendezvoused with Comet Tempel 1 in 2005, smashing a projectile into the dirty snowball in order to see what lies just beneath the surface. The mission, now renamed EPOXI, has taken the spacecraft past Earth several times on its way to a new cometary target, Hartley 2.

The craft's closest approach to the comet will be on November 4th, when it will pass just 435 miles from the comet nucleus just as it is starting to warm up and become active in its approach of the Sun. However, science observations are already underway, as data taken in early September indicates that Hartley 2 increased its cyanide output five-fold over a period of just eight days.