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Sat, 14 Dec 2019
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Fireballs

Fireball

Asteroid changes color and sprouts comet-like tail

Asteroid 6478 Gault
© NASA, ESA, K. Meech and J. Kleyna, O. Hainaut
The asteroid 6478 Gault is seen with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, showing two narrow, comet-like tails of debris that tell us that the asteroid is slowly undergoing self-destruction. The bright streaks surrounding the asteroid are background stars. The Gault asteroid is located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
Last December, scientists discovered an "active" asteroid within the asteroid belt, sandwiched between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The space rock, designated by astronomers as 6478 Gault, appeared to be leaving two trails of dust in its wake — active behavior that is associated with comets but rarely seen in asteroids.

While astronomers are still puzzling over the cause of Gault's comet-like activity, an MIT-led team now reports that it has caught the asteroid in the act of changing color, in the near-infrared spectrum, from red to blue. It is the first time scientists have observed a color-shifting asteroid, in real-time.

"That was a very big surprise," says Michael Marsset, a postdoc in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS). "We think we have witnessed the asteroid losing its reddish dust to space, and we are seeing the asteroid's underlying, fresh blue layers."

Marsset and his colleagues have also confirmed that the asteroid is rocky — proof that the asteroid's tail, though seemingly comet-like, is caused by an entirely different mechanism, as comets are not rocky but more like loose snowballs of ice and dust.

"It's the first time to my knowledge that we see a rocky body emitting dust, a little bit like a comet," Marsset says. "It means that probably some mechanism responsible for dust emission is different from comets, and different from most other active main-belt asteroids."

Marsset and his colleagues, including EAPS Research Scientist Francesca DeMeo and Professor Richard Binzel, have published their results today in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Question

What was that loud boom heard in northern York County, Pennsylvania?

Loud boom in York County PA
© Getty Images (stock photo)
Was it an earthquake?

York County 911 received several calls late Friday night about a loud boom in the northern end of the county, according to a dispatcher. One of the calls came around 10:50 p.m. from the area of Siddonsburg Road and Glen Arden Drive in Fairview Township.

Emergency responders in both York and Cumberland counties responded to check it out, but no one found anything, said Chris Weidenhammer, deputy fire chief for the Fairview Township Fire Department. Those that went out included Fairview, Monaghan and Lower Allen townships.

The Fairview Township Fire Department posted on its Facebook page that officials even checked a pipeline but nothing was found.

No earthquakes were recorded. "It's a great mystery," Weidenhammer said.

Fireball

Bright meteor fireball streaks over Edmonton, Canada

Rain wasn't the only thing falling in our city this evening, social media was flooded with reports of a sighting of what appears to be a meteor over Edmonton.
Blazing Meteor
© Pete Saloutos

Comment: More views from social media:



The American Meteor Society (AMS) received 106 reports about the meteor fireball, which was seen over Alberta, MT and Saskatchewan on Sunday, September 1st 2019 around 04:28 UT.

"This fireball would have been seen for 600km from either side of it, probably," said Mike Hankey, operations manager for the American Meteor Society, who speculated that the object was likely a bolide, a very bright meteor, based on the reports he has received.

The meteor spectrum ranges from meteor, to fireball, to bolide and super bolide, which is brighter than the Moon and almost as bright as the Sun.


Comet 2

Dr. Napier fingers fragmented comet in Younger Dryas and Bronze Age impacts

Comet 332P Fragmenting
© NASA, ESA, D. Jewitt (UCLA)
This image, captured on January 27 2016 by the Hubble Space Telescope, is one of three showing Comet 332P fragmenting as it nears the sun.
Folks, I am sorry to have been so scarce in recent months. Among other excuses for the inexcusable, the auto-mailer for subscribers to the site went down, and I felt I needed to repair it before posting. Fixing it turned into a mess which led to my continued procrastination. Much has happened in recent months in our subject though, and I look forward to catching up and posting more, as the year closes out.

First up is a fabulous new paper from Tusk friend and Scottish astronomer William Napier. Bill is a member of the Comet Research Group and contributes his world class knowledge on the behavior of comets in support of the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis. In this contribution he further refines the culprit in our favorite cataclysm, a fragmenting comet. But keep in mind, as sometimes others have not, that the subject comet is fragmenting IN SPACE over thousands of years, not in the earth's atmosphere. See The Bos misdirecting the nature and context of the fragmentation events here and here, and the CRG response here.

Fireball

Meteor fireball lights up western sky in Washington and British Columbia

Meteor fireball (stock)
© Ikonacolor/Getty Images (file photo)
This is only the second time in my life that I've seen a meteor flash this bright in the night sky. And I was in the right place, at the right time, looking in the right direction.

Walking home from work Thursday night around midnight in Spokane, Washington (because my car had a flat tire of all things), I saw the astronomical spectacle sometimes known as a "fireball," flash across part of the western sky low to the ground. It only lasted about three seconds. No time to take a picture, but I did tweet about the experience a minute later.

I wasn't the only one either. Several from Washington and British Columbia also saw the meteor fly across the sky.


Question

What, AGAIN?! 'Looping' fireball seen in the sky over Northampton, UK

The 'fireball' seen over Brixworth.
© Lauren Tester
The 'fireball' seen over Brixworth.
Eye-witnesses believe a bizarre object that looks like a ball of fire seen over Northampton and the surrounding area 'was a UFO'.

The strange ball of light seemed to swirl around in the sky for no apparent reason for a few seconds before disappearing.

Luke Pawsey saw it while in Northampton on June 22, while his friend Lauren Tester managed to film it from her home in Brixworth, which you can watch in the video above.

The 20-year-old, who works in the social care team at Northamptonshire County Council, was amazed by what he saw and believes it was 'alien'.

Comment: We understand why people reach for the 'UFO' explanation - these things seem like they're intelligently-controlled. But it's more likely they're doing that spiralling motion because of some locally-generated electromagnetic field distortion. Which, of course, still doesn't really explain quite what they are or where they come from (it's difficult to believe, for example, that they're meteors from outer space!)...

In any event, this is the third time we've come across such a report about a 'looping fireball' at the same general location: in or near the town of Northampton in the English Midlands.

Back in June 2014, this happened:

Mysterious dancing fireball captured on camera in Northampton, UK


Then in 2015 this happened (in Brackley, about 15kms from Northampton):


There must be something about the location that facilitates this phenomenon. Truly astounding...

Elsewhere in England, this happened in Wiltshire at around 8pm on 8 September 2018:




Compass

Thunderous mystery boom rattles central Maryland

Mystery boom in MD
© Screenshot via Nest Cam
Dozens of ear-witnesses in College Park, Greenbelt and Berwyn Heights, including this journalist, reported hearing a loud, explosion-like boom in the early-morning hours of Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019. The noise rattled residents, who took to social media to report their experiences. As of Sunday evening, no definitive cause for the noise has been disclosed by local officials.

This journalist was drinking on his balcony near the intersection of 49th Avenue and Tecumseh Road in College Park when he heard the mystery boom at around 1:45 a.m. Aug. 19. The sound appeared to emanate from the south, in the direction of the University of Maryland campus and College Park's Route 1 corridor. The sound was not accompanied by a flash of light, such as from lightning.

Shortly afterwards, other residents took to social media to describe the sound. One Berwyn Heights resident uploaded a security camera video recording of the boom. In the video, a, sudden, loud, thunderous report is heard, followed shortly afterwards by smaller percussive reports and rolling echos. [The boom can be heard starting at 0:19]


Comment: According to Meteorites Australia, sounds associated with a falling meteor include a "thunderous" noise.
Sounds Associated with Witnessed Meteorite Falls

Occasionally when a meteorite is witnessed to find its way to Earth, it will present a very impressive visual show as it burns through the atmosphere. Even less common though, are the occasions when witnesses are able to actually hear audible sounds associated with the falling meteor. These have been described in many various ways such as: whistling, popping, booming, thunderous, whizzing, whirling, whirring, crackling, drumming, rumbling, humming, roaring and more.



Fireball

Bright meteor fireball reported over north Alabama

Fireball over N Alabama
© Jason Carnegie
Jason Carnegie submitted this photo from Moores Mill in Huntsville, Alabama at 9:40 pm Sunday.
Did you notice a bright flash of light around 9:30pm Sunday night? If so, you may have spotted a fireball!

The American Meteor Society notes that more than 60 eyewitnesses reported the fireball in numerous states, including Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama. Eyewitnesses report the fireball was visible for roughly 1.5 - 3.5 seconds.

Additional information and reports are forthcoming regarding Sunday night's fireball. However, many across the Tennessee Valley spotted the bright feature in the sky.

The American Meteor Society defines a fireball as a meteor that shines brighter than the planet Venus.

Info

Lascaux Shaft Scene and cometary impacts

The Lascaux shaft scene is perhaps the most iconic of all European Palaeolithic cave artworks (see below). It shows a bison and human, apparently both dying and normally interpreted as a hunting scene. But we now know, beyond any reasonable doubt, the animal symbols represent constellations, and the Shaft Scene in particular very likely represents a date using precession of the equinoxes.
Lascaux Shaft Scene
© Copy of the Lascaux Shaft Scene, courtesy of Alistair Coombs
Using the zodiacal method and our ancient zodiac, the date 'written' in the scene is between 15,300 and 15,000 BC (see Prehistory Decoded). The similarity of this scene to Pillar 43 at Gobekli Tepe suggests it documents another asteroid or comet strike, this time from the direction of Capricornus (represented by the aurochs). It so happens that the Taurid meteor stream would rave radiated from this direction at this time, suggesting this artwork memorialises another strike from the Taurid system. Given the presence of a giant comet in the inner solar system at this time, such frequent impacts are entirely expected.

Very interestingly, this time span also corresponds to a sudden temperature fluctuation in the North Atlantic region (see Prehistory Decoded), documented by a Greenland ice core, and to a major cultural transition: the Magdalenian to Azillian.

Fireball 2

Bright meteor fireball seen from across western Mediterranean

httExtremely bright meteor

Extremely bright meteor fireball
A very bright meteor appeared in the skies over the western-central Mediterranean yesterday evening, August 16th at around 22:43 CEST. Videos indicate a very significant event.

The fireball was likely significantly brighter than the full Moon, indicating a sizeable incoming meteoroid. It was a long-duration event, lasting over 4 seconds. The meteor reached peak brightness in a series of bright flares, which appear to have resulted in fragmentation of the meteoroid - several fragments are visible towards the end of the luminous path. It appears likely that the incoming meteoroid was comparatively slow and that the event may have resulted in a meteorite fall - into the Mediterranean sea.